Charges of a “stealth campaign.” A detour into a high-profile divorce dispute. Press releases highlighting their opponent’s shortcomings. Increasingly negative ads.
April 29: Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert Busch to meet at 7 p.m. at The Citadel’s Holliday Alumni Center.May 7: Special election.
So far, the 1st Congressional District race has featured a little bit of everything — except Republican Mark Sanford and Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch meeting face to face to talk issues.
The campaign teams
Sanford’s teamGeneral consultant: Jason Miller Campaign manager: Jon Kohan Spokesman: Joel Sawyer Finance Director: Sunny Phillips Colbert Busch’s team Campaign manager: Bill RomjueScheduler: Janet Segal Volunteer Development Director: Cynthia Rosengren Accounting: Wendy WalkerFinance Director: Kristin OblanderPress Secretary: James Smith Policy Aide: Kim ConwaySenior Adviser: Catherine ChristmanField Director: Chris CovertPolitical Director: Abe JenkinsPolitical Director: Remle Beard
Only one forum has been set: an April 29 appearance at The Citadel. Other groups, such as the Goose Creek NAACP, are trying to arrange more but with no success to date.
Colbert Busch has not committed to the NAACP’s April 30 forum and was unable to make a South Carolina AARP debate that was to be held April 17. That event was going to be televised, but the April 29 forum is not scheduled to be on TV.
That has left some frustrated.
“Until you know what they’re talking about,” Patrick Cobb of South Carolina’s AARP said, “you can’t pick a side.”
On Friday, the League of Women Voters and Cistern Yard Video posted six-minute-long sessions with Sanford, Colbert Busch and Green Party candidate Eugene Platt at lwvcharleston.org/elections.html.
The candidates returned to the campaign trail Saturday, with both Colbert Busch and Sanford making several stops in Beaufort County.
Colbert Busch visited the Penn Center, a farmer’s market and the Soft Shell Crab Festival in Port Royal.
Sanford also campaigned in the Beaufort area Saturday, but his schedule was not made public.
He is expected to make a few more appearances there today before returning to Charleston, Spokesman Joel Sawyer said.
Colbert Busch is expected to knock on doors in West Ashley today, her spokesman James Smith said.
The first few weeks of the campaign featured Sanford making several public appearances — and repeatedly accusing Colbert Busch of running a “stealth campaign.”
Fewer of Colbert Busch’s early events were open to the press, and with those that were, her handlers allowed news reporters only a few minutes of questions with her afterward.
That changed Tuesday, when news broke that Sanford’s ex-wife Jenny had filed a Family Court complaint alleging that he violated their divorce agreement by trespassing at her Sullivan’s Island home. Sanford said he was there to watch the Super Bowl with their youngest son.
For a few days, Colbert Busch was more publicly visible than Sanford, but by Friday, Sanford invited Colbert Busch to join him at any of 15 appearances in five days, starting at 11 a.m. Monday at Hay Tire Pros in Mount Pleasant.
“To date, my opponent has refused to do any joint public appearances or debate the issues for the benefit of voters in the 1st district,” he said. “Instead she has been content to allow Nancy Pelosi and the national Democratic Party make her case for her through nearly $1 million in negative television advertising.”
Colbert Busch was not expected to join him at any of the events. Asked about Sanford’s invitation, Smith said nothing to indicate she would participate. “Elizabeth has a very aggressive campaign schedule over the next three weeks,” he added.
Sanford’s Family Court complaint wasn’t the only course change last week.
Colbert Busch’s campaign shifted last week from a relatively quiet, parallel track to a more aggressive strategy directly targeting Sanford.
She ran her first ad — a radio spot criticizing Sanford’s opposition to federal funding for the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and port improvements.
Sanford’s campaign also aired and mailed its first negative ads — ones contrasting Colbert Busch’s acceptance of $30,000 in donations from unions with Sanford’s approach to luring new jobs.
A media tracking source told CNN that Sanford is being outspent 3-1 by Colbert Busch; neither has their April 15 disclosure report posted on the Federal Election Commission website.
Colbert Busch’s fundraising advantage comes as national Democrats rally behind her legitimate shot to win a seat that has been in Republican hands for more than three decades.
Her brother, comedian Stephen Colbert, and other prominent Democratic leaders have held fundraisers for her in Washington and New York.
Both the House Majority PAC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began airing attack ads on Sanford last week. The House Majority PAC said its ads would cost more than $100,000, and the DCCC said it plans to spend about $200,000.
Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced it was ending its involvement in the race last week in the wake of the trespassing revelations related to Sanford’s divorce.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.