|Gov. Mark Sanford|
Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) -- Take a former Republican governor whose political career was left for dead along the Appalachian Trail after an infamous affair.
Add a Democratic candidate best known as the sister of Comedy Central show host Stephen Colbert.
Factor in the nearly $1 million spent by national Democratic groups, and toss in polling which indicates the contest, in a district held by the GOP for over three decades, is a toss-up, and you get a special congressional election that's captured national attention.Voters in coastal South Carolina will decide Tuesday who will fill the vacant U.S. House seat in the state's 1st Congressional District. The two leading candidates on the ballot are former two-term Gov. Mark Sanford, who's seeking political redemption as he runs for the seat that he once held for six years, and Elizabeth Colbert Busch."People at the end of the day say, 'Look, you're an imperfect human being but at the end of the day, we all are.' The idea that having somebody who's failed in a chapter of his life still represent me is again something people felt comfortable with," Sanford told CNN.And he knows redemption is in sight....Sanford was in his second term as governor in 2009 when he disappeared from public view for several days. At the time his staff claimed he'd been hiking the Appalachian Trail. He later admitted that he was actually in Argentina, seeing the woman with whom he was having an affair. He's now engaged to that woman.The episode sank any hopes Sanford had of making a bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Sanford and then-wife Jenny were divorced in 2010. He finished his second term as governor in January 2011, after being censured and fined tens of thousands of dollars for ethics violations, exiting to what many thought would be political obscurity.But he's back, beating out 15 other candidates earlier this year to win the Republican nomination. And even with all his political baggage, he was considered the favorite in the race until last month, when court documents revealed his ex-wife had filed complaints against Sanford for trespassing on her property.Sanford told CNN that he didn't want to leave his sons home alone while their mother was
away. He's scheduled for a court appearance two days after the election.
Elizabeth Colbert Busch
Not long after the trespassing story broke, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced it was pulling out of the race and national Democratic groups announced they were throwing more money into the contest.And National Democratic groups jumped in. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and independent pro-Democrat House Majority PAC combined have dished out nearly $1 million to defeat Sanford.The two groups, as well as Colbert Busch, have highlighted the affair. At their only general election debate, Colbert Busch, an official with Clemson University's wind turbine drive testing facility, brought up Sanford's 2009 secret trip to Argentina to see his mistress."When we talk about fiscal spending and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn't mean you take that money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose," she said sternly, looking directly at her opponent on stage.And her campaign went up with a TV commercial which slammed Sanford for using "tax dollars to visit his mistress in Argentina, disappeared for a week leaving no one in charge, betrayed all who trusted him, then lied to cover it up. Mark Sanford, it's a question of character."
The DCCC and House Majority PAC have also spotlighted the affair in their final ads.