Can a Colbert can turn Charleston blue? (+video)
Conventional political wisdom says Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, a Charlestonian, Democrat, and sister of TV comedian Stephen Colbert, is more likely to ice skate in Charleston Harbor than win a seat in the House. Yet stranger things have happened in South Carolina.
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She has also witnessed drama and tragedy first-hand, enduring the death of her father and brothers when she was 19, and becoming an eyewitness to planes crashing into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.Skip to next paragraph
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IF Colbert-Busch wins, she'll be the first woman to hold the seat since Democratic Rep. Clara Gooding McMillan, who represented Charleston from 1939 to 1941.
While the TV personality Stephen Colbert has toyed with a presidential run and even raised $1 million for a political PAC, the real-life Mr. Colbert talked more soberly about his support for his sister at a recent fundraiser, even revealing her nickname: "Lulu." The Colbert name has certainly not hurt Colbert-Busch's fundraising efforts, which so far are in line with her major Republican opponents.
"What Lulu is able to do is bring people together for the common good," Mr. Colbert said. "One of the things I thought when Lulu said she was going to run for Congress was how lucky it would be for the Lowcountry and South Carolina to have her, not only because she is hard-working … but because she is sane. I like South Carolina, but we're a crazy state. I think we invented crazy, from John C. Calhoun's nullification act to Lulu's possible opponent, the former governor of the Appalachian Trail, Mark Sanford."
Indeed, the appearance of Mr. Sanford, whose governorship ended in disgrace after it was revealed he disappeared for five days not to hike the Appalachian Trail but for a tryst with an Argentinean news anchor, has brought attention to the race, and raised concerns among Republicans that Sanford may come victorious through the primary only to face abandonment by conservative women voters in the general election. Sanford has struggled to break above 35 percent support.
A sleeper candidate is former Charleston County Council Chairman Curtis Bostic, an attorney and retired Marine, whose "stop spending" campaign is almost entirely grassroots and has thus flown under the radar of much of the political horse race betting.
Mr. Bostic, who lives outside the 1st district (which is okay under South Carolina election law), was featured on a CBS News report in 2010 as the attorney representing a Christian adoption agency facing allegations of human trafficking, a possible attack point for a Democrat should Bostic win the nomination.
Just to juice the national interest further, another possible opponent for Colbert-Busch, who is heavily favored in a two-way Democratic primary on Tuesday, is high school science teacher Teddy Turner, the son of liberal cable magnate Ted Turner, running as a Republican.
But perhaps the biggest unknown in whether Colbert Busch can win, and whether modern-day South Carolina is ready to elect a woman Democrat to Congress, is the extent to which Charleston has begun to mirror parts of the South where progressive newcomers have begun to soften Republicanism and at least open the door to new kinds of candidates, with new ideas and ideologies.
"There's a lot of people moving into Charleston that could be turned off by the social issues of the Republican party," says Gibbs Knotts, chair of the political science department at the College of Charleston. "That fact may not ultimately shift this to a competitive election, but it is a dynamic that's going to help [Colbert-Busch], because we're seeing a bit of the dynamic that we've seen in northern Virginia and [North Carolina's Triangle region] starting in Charleston."