CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, after sparring from a distance for weeks, finally face off in a debate Monday in the pitched race for the state's vacant 1st Congressional District seat.
The two meet Monday evening at The Citadel in a debate sponsored by the Patch news service, the South Carolina Radio Network and Charleston television station WCBD. The debate is being cablecast by C-SPAN.
It's their first joint appearance in the campaign that began after then-U.S. Rep. Tim Scott was appointed to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by fellow Republican Jim DeMint. Sanford and Colbert Busch won their respective party primaries — Sanford after a GOP runoff. They are now vying along with Green Party Candidate Eugene Platt in a May 7 special election in the district, which runs from northeast of Charleston south to the resort of Hilton Head Island.
Sanford's public career was sidelined in 2009 after he revealed he had an extramarital affair with an Argentine woman to whom he is now engaged. More recently, his ex-wife Jenny accusing Sanford in a court complaint of repeatedly trespassing in her home. The revelation prompted the National Republican Congressional Committee to pull its support from Sanford's campaign. Mark Sanford has said he watched part of the Super Bowl at the beach house with their 14-year-old son because he was concerned about the teen watching it alone.
For weeks now, Sanford has been trying to make a political comeback, hammering Colbert Busch, a businesswoman and the sister of political satirist Stephen Colbert, for not debating more.
Sanford has accused her of running what he called a stealth campaign, fueled by out-of-state money and that the voters don't know where she stands on the issues.
"In the absence of everything else this (debate) takes on added significance because she hasn't debated," Sanford said.
Colbert Busch has been busy with her own aggressive campaign schedule, her campaign has said.
"I'm really looking forward to this debate," Colbert Busch said Friday. "I think what you will see when Mark and I are standing on the same stage is you will see an enormous difference between the two of us and you will see an enormous difference between the two campaigns. I'm really looking forward to it."
But she said she doesn't think the campaign will turn on the debate.
"I think people understand our campaign and what our campaign is doing resonates throughout the district," she added.