Mark Sanford and Elizabeth Colbert Busch faced off Monday in a spirited, often accusatory debate in the race for South Carolina’s 1st District. While Sanford dominated the time allotted, Colbert Busch largely stuck to short, succinct answers and rebuttals.
Sanford–who had wanted more than one debate with his opponent–spent last week debating a cardboard cutout of Nancy Pelosi; on Monday evening, he seems to still be forcused on her, referring to her at least a half-dozen times. He also hammered at the National Democratic Campaign Committee’s contribution to Colbert Busch’s campaign: You don’t give someone a million dollars and expect nothing in return, he said.
Colbert Busch rebutted with perhaps her most memorable line of the night: “Let me tell you something, Mark: Nobody tells me what to do.”
Many wondered if Colbert Busch or the moderators would bring up Sanford’s marital infidelities, or the recent news that Sanford’s ex-wife had sued him for trespassing on her property in February. On the latter topic, all parties were silent. But Colbert Busch did slip in a mention of Sanford’s infamous trip to Argentina in a question about taxes.
Money saved on state taxes shouldn’t cover “leaving the country for personal purposes,” she said–prompting one moderator to quickly note: ”She went there.”
Sanford acted like he did not hear the remark. But later, when asked if he would reach across the aisle to get things done, he said his experience in 2009 gave him “a great level of humility.”
Asked by the moderator about his vote to impeach Bill Clinton for adultery, Sanford asked in return, should Clinton be judged on a single mistake in his past? Meanwhile, Colbert Busch compared herself to Dick Cheney, getting conservative cover for her support for marriage equality by quoting the former vice president: “Freedom means freedom for everyone.”
Quick, pithy remarks like these were a mark of Colbert Bush’s performance. Sanford utilized the approach of more seasoned politicians: talking through his alloted time limit, and interjecteing as frequently as possible. He missed no opportunity to move the debate back to Pelosi.
“She’s not here!” shouted one audience member.
The moderators cycled through a number of national policy issues, including immigration, gun control, education, and marriage equality.
On immigration, Colbert Busch said she’d support Lindsey Graham’s immigration bill; Sanford contends it needs further tweaking. On healthcare, Sanford vowed to defund Obamacare if given the chance; Colbert Busch, though citing it as “highly problematic,” praised many of its elements, including the Medicaid Expansion. On entitlements, Sanford suggested a controversial privatized version of Social Security; Colbert Busch “couldn’t disagree more.”
Sanford concluded by saying the country is at a crucial tipping point of out-of-control spending. Colbert Busch countered: “This is not the end of time as we know it. The sky is not falling, Henny Penny.” She went on to describe her vision for a “knowledge-based” economy in South Carolina.
Although the district is a Republican one, recently Sanford had fallen behind. This debate was an opportunity for him to staunch his losses.