House race: Mark Sanford win crushes Democrats' hope of red-state toehold
Democrats spent $1 million to elect Elizabeth Colbert Busch in true-red South Carolina. But Republican Mark Sanford won handily with a message of fiscal restraint, despite ethical and moral lapses while governor.
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The big question in the race was how Sanford's moral lapses would play with Republican women voters. As governor, Sanford avoided impeachment, but he ultimately paid a $74,000 ethics fine for in essence vacating his office for a week and conducting an affair on the state's time. He and his wife, Jenny Sanford, have since divorced; he is now engaged to his paramour, Maria Belen Chapur, who has relocated to the low country.Skip to next paragraph
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While Colbert Busch in essence tried to run out the clock on the election after going up by nine points in the polls, Sanford, a veteran campaigner, hammered in the waning days on Colbert Busch's alliance with national Democrats, including House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and expounded at every corner on the evils of profligate spending that he blamed on liberal leaders in Washington.
"I am one imperfect man saved by God's grace, but one who has a conviction on the importance of doing something about spending in Washington," Sanford said in his victory speech in Charleston Tuesday night.
“Today, a grassroots issue-based campaign upset the national Democratic campaign machine," Amy Kremer of the national Tea Party Express group said in a statement. "Voters saw past the personal attacks and elected a Tea Party candidate who is willing to stand up for fiscal responsibility and limited government."
True to the spirit of South Carolina politics, the campaign had some unusual moments, including its original premise: the sister of faux Republican commentator (and Charleston native) Stephen Colbert taking on the man whom Mr. Colbert once called "the governor of the Appalachian Trail."
Two weeks ago, Sanford appeared at an event and began debating with a cutout of Nancy Pelosi. A few days before the election, he accompanied a BuzzFeed reporter to a local mall and asked random women whether they really "hated" him.
In the background, Republicans, aided by national tea party groups, fomented a massive grass-roots effort to warn voters about letting Democrats get a toehold in the South Carolina low country, which hasn't seen a Democrat elected since 1978.
"They [Democrats] spent $1 million in this election and, if they win, they'll spend $5 million the next time," Charm Altman, president of the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women, said before the results were known. She lobbied for Sanford despite some misgivings about his behavior.
Ms. Altman said bedrock fiscal concerns ultimately override lingering anger toward Sanford for his marital infidelity. "We're not electing somebody to be pope; we're electing someone to govern with a strong conservative hand," she says.
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