Humourous moments were few and far between in the first and likely the only meeting of the 1st District candidates.
But there were a number of zingers in what was for many Lowcountry voters their first introduction to Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch and how she would handle a non-scripted arena.
Republican Mark Sanford, meanwhile, took note of the divide in the audience at The Citadel, and continued his push for keeping the district in GOP hands.
Highlights from Monday’s debate:
Sequester to Argentina
The candidates were asked about the wisdom of Congress’ recent package of cuts, with Colbert Busch leaping on Sanford’s claims that he was a recognized budget-saver as a politician.
“When we talk about protecting the taxpayer ... it doesn’t mean you take that money you saved and leave the country for a personal purpose,” she said.
Sanford said he didn’t hear all of what she said, as the crowd noise rose after her comments.
“She went there, Gov. Sanford,” one of the debate’s panelists had to explain to him.
Sanford only briefly addressed his trip to Argentina while governor to see the woman who is now his fiancee, saying the events of 2009 left him with a greater level of humility.
But at one point in the night, he brought up the case of another politician who was guilty of an extramarital relationship while in office.
“Do you think President Clinton should be condemned for the rest of his life based on one mistake he made in his life?” he said.
The Pelosi effect
Sanford referred to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at least six times as he decried the amount of outside money, pegged at more than $1 million, going into the race on Colbert Busch’s behalf.
The first reference came 23 minutes into the night. Democrats in Washington have been a big part of his campaign message.
The Boeing effect
Sanford took exception to Colbert Busch’s answer that she is supportive of South Carolina’s right-to-work state status and that the National Labor Relations Board was wrong in entering the Boeing-to-North Charleston battleground.
He pointed out “you’ve taken $70,000 from labor unions.” She has vowed to not take any group-specific pledges, she said.
Sanford rekindled his advocacy of personal savings accounts for worker Social Security savings, something he spoke of often when he held the 1st District seat from 1994-2000.
Colbert Busch questioned the wisdom of such a plan, given the bubble crash Wall Street suffered a few years back.
“Our elderly would have lost half of their investments,” she said.
The nursery rhyme
In her closing remarks, Colbert Busch tried to paint Sanford as a doom-and-gloom candidate when it came to the country’s future.
“The sky is not falling, Henny Penny,” she said. “Our best days are ahead of us.”