South Carolina GOP Runoff Results: Mark Sanford Wins and May Be Mounting a Political Comeback

Former South Carolinia governor Mark Sanford just won the GOP primary and will soon face off against Elizabeth Colbert-Busch in the general election. Here is a quick background on the special House election along with a prediction as to who will fill the vacant Congressional seat.

Background

On December 6, 2012, then Senator Jim DeMint announced that he would resign from the Senate before the 113th Congress began in January 2013 to become president of The Heritage Foundation. Thus, there was a vacant South Carolinian Senate seat that needed to be filled.

Governor Nikki Haley appointed Representative Tim Scott to fill the Senate position until 2014. With Scott leaving a vacant House seat, a special election will be held on May 7, 2013 to decide South Carolina’s newest representative.

The primary for both Democrats and Republicans was held on March 19. Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, director of sales and marketing at Clemson University and sister of Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report, will be the Democratic candidate as she won the Democratic primary with 95.9 percent of the vote.

The situation was tricky for Republicans, however, as no candidate received above 50 percent of the vote in the primary. Yesterday’s runoff election between former South Carolinian governor and representative Mark Sanford, and Charleston County Council member and former Marine, Curtis Bostic, decided that Mark Sanford will be the Republican candidate in the general election.

The latest Public Policy Polling survey shows Colbert-Busch leading Sanford 47-45 with a margin of error of 2.9% and 8% undecided; a virtual tie.

Colbert-Busch vs. Sanford

Colbert-Busch has name-recognition and endorsements from the AFL-CIO and South Carolinian Representative Jim Clyburn. Sanford also has name recognition, but has only picked up one big-name endorsement from Representative Tom Rice, Sanford’s former lieutenant governor. More will likely endorse Sanford now that he has won the Republican primary.

Sanford leads in cash-on-hand as he started his campaign with $120,660 in his federal account and now has $412,707 in total contributions. Colbert-Busch has raised $291,559.

Sanford has spent approximately $170,000 on three TV advertisements which focus on his “Leadership” slogan. One of Sanford’s ads addresses his record as governor as Sanford says that he “cut spending, reduced debt and made government more-accountable”.

This ad also alludes to the 2009 Sanford scandal as Sanford states that “I have experienced how none of us go through life without mistakes” and speaks about “a God of second chances”.

In June 2009, Governor Sanford’s whereabouts were unknown to the public (including his wife and State Law Enforcement Division which provides security to him), and he was not responding to phone or text messages. His six day disappearance made national news, and Sanford was later found to have been in Argentina. A few hours after arriving back in the U.S., Sanford held a press conference where he admitted that he had been having an extramarital affair with an Argentinean journalist.

Colbert-Busch’s most-popular ad focuses on her record as the Director of Business Development at Orient Overseas Container Line and liaison position between Associated Maritime Industries Inc. and U.S. Federal and State governments. Colbert-Busch states that she “spent twenty years using our ports to create jobs … [and] knows what it takes to create new jobs.”

And the winner is ....

With such a tight race, no pundit should be perfectly confident in their predictions, but we can still try!

There are many factors working against Sanford: the 2009 scandal, a 34% favorability rating with 58% of voters seeing him in a negative light, and a current lack of endorsements.

But I believe that endorsements will come from big names like Governor Haley and Tim Scott now that Sanford has won the primary. Additionally, no Democrat has won this House seat since Mendel Jackson Davis in 1979, and ending the trend of Republican victors is highly unlikely.

Sanford’s huge monetary advantage coupled with the fact that House candidates who spend more money win 93% of the time further add to the likelihood that Sanford will be victorious in May, thereby keeping the Republican-Democrat power-balance of the House perfectly intact.