- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 24, 2013

As if the race for South Carolina’s open House seat wasn’t colorful enough already …

Republican candidate Mark Sanford, who, while serving as the state’s governor in 2009, was caught in a bizarre extramarital affair, held a “debate” Wednesday with a life-size poster-photo of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The stunt — which many compared with Clint Eastwood “conversation” with an empty stool meant to be President Obama at last year’s Republican National Convention — was staged as a protest because Mr. Sanford says his Democrat opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, has refused to agree to multiple debates in the competitive May 7 race.

“My opponent continues to run a stealth campaign, avoiding public appearances and refusing to commit to televised forums for the benefit of 1st (Congressional) District voters,” Mr. Sanford said. “Since Elizabeth Colbert Busch refuses to articulate her views publicly, we are left to draw inferences for what she stands for on the basis of the groups that have made substantial monetary investments on her behalf.”

Mrs. Pelosi and other national Democrats have contributed about $1 million to Mrs. Colbert Busch’s campaign effort, the Republican said.

“Because my opponent is refusing joint appearances to answer questions about where she stands on the issues, all we can assume is that she is going to be a reliable vote for the Pelosi-Obama agenda, were she to be elected.”

Mr. Sanford and Mrs. Colbert Busch — sister of political satirist and TV show personality Stephen Colbert — will debate Monday. But the Republican has pressed her for more one-on-one appearances.

Mrs. Colbert Busch’s campaign fired back Wednesday, accusing her opponent of waging a “desperate campaign to deceive voters.”

Mr. Sanford once was a rising star in the Republican Party who was whispered as a possible 2012 presidential candidate. But his reputation and career unraveled after he infamously disappeared in 2009, officially to “hike the Appalachian Trail,” while instead traveling to Argentina to visit his mistress.

Mr. Sanford’s career seemed on the rebound after he won his party’s primary last month to fill the congressional seat vacated when former Rep. Tim Scott was appointed to the Senate. But he was back in the headlines this month for the wrong reasons when his ex-wife, Jenny, filed a complaint accusing him of trespassing on her property during the Super Bowl.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the fundraising arm of House Republicans, since has pulled funding in support of Mr. Sanford’s campaign.

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