BEAUFORT, S.C.—Campaign fever has swept the lower region of South Carolina's first congressional district, but the anticipation for next week's election has little to do with Mark Sanford or Elizabeth Colbert Busch.
It's for Beaufort-born Candice Glover, a 23-year-old finalist on the hit reality television show "American Idol." Over the weekend, storefronts along Main Street here were covered with campaign posters that read "Vote for Candice Y'all" and scores of locals sported "I Voted Candice Glover For American Idol" stickers on their chests. On Saturday, the town even organized a parade for her, where thousands lined the street to see their hometown hero perform before her final competition in Los Angeles. Aside from just a handful of people on the outskirts of the parade waving campaign posters for Sanford and a Colbert Busch yard sign planted along the parade route, all the attention was on Glover. (Colbert Busch visited Beaufort on Friday and Sanford attended the parade Saturday.)
Lost in the hullabaloo in this storybook waterfront town is the other upcoming contest—an actual election—to fill the state's open congressional seat. "No one is here to see Sanford," a man wearing a "Vote: Candice" t-shirt told Yahoo News. "You're probably the only one."
But Sanford was present, moving through the crowd, shaking hands and snapping photos with anyone who would stop and greet him.
Standing in a pair of old, beaten up leather shoes, casual Izod khakis and a blue checkered oxford shirt, Sanford looked like any other dad at the parade. He meandered among the parade-goers without a flashy entourage or gaggle of reporters chasing him. Supporters managed to find their old governor nonetheless, stopping to pledge support for him in Tuesday's election.
Surrounded by people, Sanford appeared more exhilarated with every hand shaken and photo taken. "Happy Candice Day!" he would say before extending his hand. One group of men standing on a balcony overlooking the parade route spotted him in the crowd and shouted, "Mark!" before nodding their heads and giving a silent thumbs up.
Some felt the urge to tell Sanford they had forgiven him for his behavior as governor, when he secretly left the country to meet his Argentine mistress—now his fiancee—a decision that many said at the time would end his political career.
"I'm glad you're making a comeback," a man told Sanford as he shook his hand.
"Thank God for second chances," the man's wife added.
"I agree with that," Sanford said.
Others, predictably, offered less grace. Some who recognized him looked the other way, or shouted things like, "Go back to Argentina!" or "Elizabeth!" the first name of his opponent.
Still, Sanford appeared grateful. Between conversations and handshakes with parade watchers, he stopped for a moment to reflect.
"It's a blessing," Sanford said. "I've been to a place where people didn't want to get their picture taken with me."
Perhaps the true blessing, at least here, is that he's not running against Candice Glover.