Former Gov. Mark Sanford, state Sen. Larry Grooms and businesswoman Elizabeth Colbert Busch are the top fundraisers among 1st Congressional District hopefuls, a new report shows.
The candidates with the largest campaign war chests are state Rep. Chip Limehouse, former state Sen. John Kuhn and Charleston teacher Teddy Turner.
All three are Republicans facing off against Sanford, Grooms and 11 others in the March 19 primary.
Kuhn, Limehouse and Turner have the most money because of what they have pumped into their bids. They have contributed to — or loaned — their campaigns $500,000, $400,000 and $317,000, respectively.
Former Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic, a Republican, is the only other candidate who has raised more than six figures. His $187,273 total includes $100,000 worth of loans or contributions from himself.
Colbert Busch benefited from her little brother’s recent visit to Charleston. Comedian Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” held a high-profile fundraiser for her recently, helping push her contributions to $291,560.
Only Sanford was able to raise more than Colbert Busch, having raised $334,397, according to the Federal Election Commission. He has put none of his own money in his campaign to date, the report showed.
Grooms has raised $194,716 and has contributed an additional $100,000 toward his bid.
The campaigns have had relatively little time to raise money since the race began taking shape in December, when Gov. Nikki Haley appointed U.S. Rep. Tim Scott to the Senate vacancy created by Jim DeMint’s resignation.
Unlike some other primaries, there has been virtually no outside money injected at this point. The only contribution was a $1,500 donation to Grooms from the Palmetto Conservatives Fund.
The Federal Election Commission’s numbers reflect contributions made through Feb. 27.
The 1st District — which covers parts of Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton and Dorchester counties — leans more Republican than South Carolina as a whole, but Colbert Busch’s fundraising gives Democrats some hope.
She faces perennial candidate Ben Frasier in the March 19 Democratic primary. Frasier, who always runs a bare-bones campaign, had no report on file.
Charleston businessman Martin Skelly, who filed as a Democrat but quickly withdrew and endorsed Colbert Busch, reported raising $131,047, including $86,655 of his own money.
Other Republican candidates’ war chests include: state Rep. Andy Patrick ($61,612); state Rep. Peter McCoy ($60,364); former Bush White House official Jonathan Hoffman ($55,009); and former Dorchester County Sheriff Ray Nash ($18,487).
No other candidate with an FEC report on file had raised more than $10,000.
The approximately $2.5 million raised so far is not a record in the 1st District — at least not yet. Former U.S. Rep. Henry Brown and Democratic challenger Linda Ketner spent $3.5 million in their hard-fought 2008 race.
That mark could be surpassed by the time this year’s special election is held on May 7.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.