The specter of former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s extramarital affair has haunted the South Carolina special congressional election from the start, and on Monday night, Sanford’s Democratic opponent Elizabeth Colbert Busch went after him for it in their first and only debate.
“When we talk about fiscal spending, and we talk about protecting taxpayers, it doesn’t mean you take that money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose,” Colbert Busch said, referring to the seven days when Sanford disappeared from the state when he was governor. Sanford’s office said at the time that he had gone hiking on the Appalachian Trail. In fact, Sanford had gone to visit his Argentine mistress, to whom he is now engaged.
“She went there, Gov. Sanford,” said a moderator.
Sanford, however, was apparently not interested in following her there.
“I couldn’t hear what she said. Repeat it?” he responded.
“I’ll go back to the sequester,” he announced a moment later.
Sanford’s affair has been a near constant presence in the race from the moment he began contemplating a “comeback” run. In the 16-way Republican primary for the seat, his competitors were not shy bringing up his infidelity and the ensuing scandal. Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic, who lost to Sanford in a run-off for the nomination, went so far as to say the affair would cost Republicans the seat if they picked Sanford.
Two weeks ago, the affair made headlines again whey Sanford’s ex-wife charged him with trespassing on her property. The report caused the National Republican Congressional Committee to very publicly bow out of the race, suggesting there could be more skeletons in the former governor’s closet.
Sanford and Colbert Busch are vying for the first district Congressional seat left vacant when former Rep. Tim Scott was appointed to the Senate. The election is in one week.