Colbert Busch’s challenge: Break GOP lock on 1st District

Elizabeth Colbert Busch celebrates as she is declared the winner in the Democratic primary Tuesday. Buy this photo

The workers at the victory party were jubilant as Elizabeth Colbert Busch arrived. As she spoke, they grew watchful. They were looking for magic.

Colbert Busch easily defeated perennial candidate Ben Frasier on Tuesday in the Democratic primary for the 1st District congressional seat.

She had 96 percent of the vote with nearly all precincts in, according to unofficial results.

Now the political newcomer must figure out how to snap a Republican lock on the coastal district, which voted 58 percent for Mitt Romney in the presidential campaign last year.

The first-time campaigner is relatively untested and must find a way to make her campaign message stick with voters.

Colbert Busch, 58, a business development director at the Clemson University Restoration Institute, brings a brisk, business approach to the campaign. She speaks with a manager’s to-the-point directness.

After early returns confirmed that she was the overwhelming favorite, Colbert Busch called for expanding engineering and science education in pre-kindergarten through grade 12.

She also advocated for creating jobs at a living wage, reducing the deficit by eliminating waste and protecting retirement benefits.

Asked earlier how to make that appeal to voters in a district with a simmering mood that the federal government spending, if not the government itself, is out of control, she championed her business sense.

“I am a fiscal conservative Democrat,” she said. “I understand what it means (to) and how to cut waste.”

The district has a majority of women voters registered, nearly 55 percent, and Colbert Busch acknowledges the campaign is looking at all demographics. At the party in Mex 1 Coastal Cantina in West Ashley she spoke about including “voices not being heard.”

Colbert Busch carries name recognition and something of a cachet because of her brother, Stephen Colbert, the popular Comedy Central comedian, and national media interest in the race.

Her primary campaign was low-key. She appeared with Frasier at only a few forums, and did not get as much practice as most candidates in the far more crowded GOP field.

But in the end, she only has to face one of them.

“This is not something new to me,” she said. “Whoever the Republican candidate is at the end of the day, we’ll be very well prepared.”

“She’s real. She’s the real deal,” said Sue Willis of Goose Creek, who with her husband, Chester, worked in a political campaign for the first time to support Colbert Busch. “We’re ready to hit the streets again.”



Robert Behre contributed to this report. Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.

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