Mark Sanford, a presumptive frontrunner in the crowded South Carolina first congressional district special election, is proving to be a successful fundraiser, though his opponents have pushed hundred of thousands into their war chest with loans.
Financial filings obtained by Morning Joe show the former governor has raised the most money so far, $334,397, but that other candidates have borrowed even more.
Sanford has loomed over the enormous field of 18 candidates to replace Republican Congressman Tim Scott. Scott was the first district representative until Gov. Nikki Haley tapped him to replace Sen. Jim DeMint who resigned last December to take over the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Sanford is no stranger to South Carolina's coastal first district--he served in the seat he now seeks from 1995-2001. His fall from political grace however began in 2009, during his second term as governor when he briefly disappeared. It was soon discovered Sanford was not hiking the Appalachian Trail over Father’s Day weekend as he told his staff, but visiting his mistress in Argentina. Soon after, at a lengthy press conference, Sanford made a tearful admission of infidelity and promptly resigned a high profile post as head of the Republican Governors Association, effectively ending murmurs of presidential ambitions.
Sanford was investigated for using public funds for his travel to Argentina and the state legislature brought impeachment proceedings. He eventually reimbursed the cost of travel and the impeachment proceedings failed, but he was nonetheless censured. Married with four sons, Sanford and wife Jenny divorced in the scandal’s wake, and Sanford has since become engaged Maria Belen Chapur, the Argentinian woman he visited now nearly four years ago.
Sanford's political comeback tour began in mid-January when he announced plans to enter the crowded candidate field. Early polling indicate voters see Sanford as the candidate to beat.
Republican candidate and former state senator John Kuhn has amassed $550,000 in campaign funds though all but $50,000 of the money came from candidate loans. Republican State Rep. Chip Limehouse has $540,115 in campaign funds, though $400,000 came as loans as well.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Elizabeth Colbert Busch has raised $318,560 in campaign funds. Two events featuring her brother, farcical Comedy Central newsman Stephen Colbert helped raise thousands of dollars. Colbert descended on the Lowcountry for a weekend of fundraisers at the end of February including one at a local bowling alley and a private $5,200-a-plate dinner and personalized book signing.
The prospective comeback has earned itself a spot in the national media, who regularly replay Sanford’s ads and interviews that focus as much on fixing the national debt as forgiveness.
“The reality of our lives is if we live long enough, we're going to fail at something,” Sanford told the Today Show. “And I absolutely failed in my personal life and in my marriage. But one place I didn't ever fail was with the taxpayer. If you were to look at my 20 years in politics, what you'd see is a fairly remarkable consistency in trying to watch out for the taxpayer.”
Complete filing information was not available on all candidates at time of publication.