On the trail

Elizabeth Colbert Busch will campaign at 10:30 a.m. today at the South Windermere Shopping Center.

Mark Sanford has three public events in West Ashley, including a 10:30 a.m. stop at Fred Anderson Toyota of Charleston on Savannah Highway, an 11:30 a.m. visit to Mooney’s Barber Shop in St. Andrew’s Center, and a noon stop at Jason’s Deli in St. Andrew’s Center. Gov. Nikki Haley is joining him at a private fundraiser later.

Tuesday on the 1st Congressional District campaign trail served up a bit of everything — barbecue, a random billboard, new endorsements and attack ads, a growing wave of national media, and plenty of candidate stumping.

With a week left before the May 7 election, Republican Mark Sanford, Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch and Green Party candidate Eugene Platt made separate pitches to Charleston’s business community and the Goose Creek branch of the NAACP.

Asked about Colbert Busch’s debate pledge Monday to return 10 percent of her salary to taxpayers, if elected, Sanford said he returned $250,000 each year from his office account when he served in Congress.

“I’m not going to criticize anybody’s pledge, but I thought she said during her campaign that she was going to make no pledges,” he said. “The bigger question is how are you going to vote on millions, billions and ultimately trillions of dollars.”

Sanford pushed back at Colbert Busch’s criticism of his voting against port funding during his last time in Congress. Sanford said he voted for the port on the committee level but voted against the omnibus spending bill — which contained the port funding and many other items.

He noted Colbert Busch has criticized Obama’s budget, even though it also contains money for port dredging. He said by her standard, she’s against port dredging.

Asked about that, Colbert Busch shook her head and said, “He voted against dredging the port. I’ve been in the business 20 years.”

Weeks ago, Colbert Busch, initially refused to comment on Sanford’s 2009 implosion — when he left the state to visit his girlfriend, now his fiancee, in Argentina, as his staff said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. As Election Day nears, she aired a new ad accusing Sanford of lying to the people of the state.

“We’re just talking about the facts. We’re talking about the differences between the two,” she said. “We’re talking about how differently we would lead.”

Sanford acknowledged the incident when he spoke in Goose Creek, saying, “You probably do a lot more soul searching on the way down than on the way up. You probably learn a lot more in the valleys of life than on the mountaintops. ... I think I’m more ready than I’ve ever been to take on this job of trying to represent you.”

A growing number of news reporters from outside the state followed the candidates Tuesday, a day after the candidates’ only debate — one marked by Colbert Busch’s pointed criticism of Sanford leaving the state “for a personal purpose.”

She passed over the Rotary Club of Charleston’s invitation to appear again with Sanford on Tuesday and instead held an event in Beaufort County to unveil a support committee of veterans and military families.

The two also sounded some new themes. Colbert Busch talked about how she would prioritize constituent service. “You can pick up the phone and you can call us,” she said. “You can say, ‘I have a question,’ and we will be there.”

Sanford said he is a fan of divided government — where neither Republicans nor Democrats are in firm control in Washington.

Platt, who is spending less than $5,000 and acknowledges he won’t win, got some of his first audiences in the race, joining Sanford and Colbert Busch in speaking to the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce’s Pork and Politics in the Park event and then in Goose Creek.

In both places, he outlined his platform of nationalizing health care, ending foreign wars and supporting green energy. In Goose Creek, he also read a poem and joked about his difficulty hearing questions because he said his hearing aids, which he received from the Department of Veterans Affairs, “were made by the low bidder.”

Sanford was endorsed Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., whose father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, already had announced his support.

Less welcome was an “endorsement” from pornographer Larry Flynt, who released a sarcastic YouTube video calling Sanford “America’s great sex pioneer.”

Also, a website for married partners looking to cheat raised a billboard just this side of Columbia with a picture of Sanford saying: “Next time use ... ashleymadison.com to find your ‘running mate.’ ”

Of the billboard, Sanford said, “South Carolina is the land of strange politics, and in essence, dirty political tricks in the last week of the campaign. I think the reality that we’ve all seen over the last couple of years is, you don’t know what’s coming in the last week of the campaign. I’d put this in that category.”

At the Rotary event, Sanford was asked if there was anything else Lowcountry voters should know about his personal life. “If you guys aren’t exhausted by that right now,” he said. “I don’t know what it’s going to take.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.