Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s congressional campaign has struggled over the past two weeks. Some conservatives are ready to throw in the towel. One conservative group is launching a write-in campaign for state Senator Larry Grooms, to give voters an alternative to Sanford and his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch.
Last week, it was reported that Sanford’s ex-wife had filed a complaint against him for trespassing at her house. The National Republican Congressional Committee promptly announced that it would not provide assistance to the former governor’s campaign.
The Sanford campaign cancelled a Washington, D.C. fundraiser. Meanwhile, Democrats poured money into the race in support of Colbert Busch. A Public Policy Polling poll released this week found Sanford trailing his Democratic opponents by nine points. The Cook Political report moved the race to “lean Democratic.”
Grooms was one of the many candidates who ran in the Republican primary. He finished third behind Sanford and attorney Curtis Bostic.
The Conservative Campaign Committee PAC, which supported Grooms in the primary, is launching an independent expenditure campaign to give conservative voters who are disenchanted with Sanford but do not want to vote for a Democrat a third option in the May 7 special election.
The group has begun “actively reaching out to conservative leaders and groups from around the country to join our coalition and contribute to this effort,” CCC Vice Chair Selena Owens said in a statement.
The group plans to run radio and television ads to encourage voters to write in Grooms on the ballot.
“We don’t have to settle for the lesser of evils in this Special Election. Instead, write in Larry Grooms for Congress on May 7th,” the ads will say.
Conservative Campaign Committee Chairman Lloyd Marcus acknowledged that such an effort could risk splitting the conservative vote, giving Colbert Busch an easy win, but argued that “Sanford has already split the majority constituency, the anti-Colbert Busch vote, into people who are able to stomach him as their candidate and people who aren’t.”
“So in an effort to give that majority constituency a candidate whom they can unite behind, we’ll be launching a campaign to urge voters to write in State Senator Larry Grooms, the proven, consistent career conservative who already expressed interest in this seat earlier in the race,” Marcus added.
Grooms, however, is not on board with the effort and says he has requested that the group not move forward with it.
“Their decision was done without my knowledge or consent,” Grooms wrote in a post on his Facebook page. “It is my desire to untie [sic] conservatives, not divide them. While I am grateful to have had their past support, my race is over.”
“I am asking them to stop their effort,” Grooms added.
“I encourage you to not help elect a Democrat by writing in my name or any other candidate’s name but instead to support our Republican nominee, Mark Sanford,” he concluded.
The Sanford campaign did not respond to request for comment. The Colbert Busch campaign declined to comment.