In Mark Sanford race, a test of how much infidelity matters in South
Voting is under way Tuesday in Charleston, S.C., where Mark Sanford (R) hopes to prevail over Elizabeth Colbert Busch (D) for a US House seat. The Republican is usually a shoo-in, but the former governor's 'Appalachian Trail' tale of infidelity raised doubts.
There's an old saying in the South: "I might shoot you, but I'll pray over you when I'm done."Skip to next paragraph
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Whether it reflects how conservative women voters in South Carolina feel about Mark Sanford is at the heart of a hotly contested election for a US House seat in Charleston. Mr. Sanford, the Republican nominee, is seeking electoral redemption for lying in 2009 while governor, saying he was leaving the governor's mansion to hike the Appalachian trail but instead flying to Argentina for a tryst with a mistress.
Tuesday's special election in the First Congressional District pits Sanford, a three-time congressman and two-time governor, against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a shipping executive and sister of Comedy Central parodist Stephen Colbert. The matchup has a variety of national tendrils, not the least of which is the unusual opportunity for Democrats to gain a foothold in the deepest South, where the rarified Old South still wafts through the magnolias and one can easily imagine the echoes of the Civil War cannon booms.
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"If [Democrats] were to win this, it would be like sharks smelling blood in the water," says Charm Altman, president of the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women, in Sea Island, S.C.
The national buzz is big, centered on whether the man who changed for a generation the meaning of "hiking the Appalachian Trail" will be redeemed. The turnout, meanwhile, is expected to be relatively small, as most constituents, especially blacks and younger voters, tend to sit out special elections.
That dynamic, added to Sanford's infidelity, has put all the focus on Republican women – the largest voting bloc in the district. Many have said they have no intention of casting their vote for a philanderer who, upon his return to South Carolina, went before the TV cameras to tell all the world that his mistress was his "soul mate" knowing that his wife, Jenny Sanford, must have been watching. (The other woman, Maria Belen Chapur, has since become Sanford's fiancée.) It all hit a bit close to home for voters such as Sabrina Vegis of James Island, who said in a March interview with the Monitor that she's seen, in her own social sphere, similar behavior by "a certain kind of man" crush marriages and friendships.
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