Mark Sanford debates poster

Mark Sanford debates poster
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 9:20pm

With just under two weeks to go until election day, an entertaining special election to fill a vacant House seat in South Carolina's first congressional district remains just that, entertaining.

The latest episode: GOP candidate and former Gov. Mark Sanford Wednesday debated a cardboard cutout poster of Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker and current minority leader, in an attempt to call out his Democratic opponent Elizabeth Colbert Busch for not debating him in the 1st Congressional District race.

Sanford has invited Colbert Busch, the sister of satirist and comedy show host Stephen Colbert, to a series of debates prior to the May 7 special election, but the Democratic candidate has accepted only one on April 29 in Charleston.

"Since my opponent won't debate, we decided to 'debate' her biggest benefactor, Nancy Pelosi," said Sanford on Twitter, who says a vote for Colbert Busch would also be a vote for Pelosi, who has high negatives with Republican voters and who most likely would become House speaker again if the Democrats run the table and regain control of the chamber in the 2014 Midterm Elections.

"My opponent continues to run a stealth campaign, avoiding public appearances and refusing to commit to televised forums for the benefit of 1st district voters," said Sanford, in a statement. "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."

Colbert Busch, an official with Clemson University's wind turbine drive testing facility, says the compressed time frame of the special election is forcing her to focus on talking with voters in the district instead of debating Sanford.

"While Mark Sanford continues his desperate campaign to deceive voters, Elizabeth Colbert Busch is spending her time with real people who support her campaign - today alone," said Colbert Busch press secretary James Smith Wednesday. "She doesn't have to resort to phony cardboard cutouts to talk with the people of South Carolina."

Sanford is seeking political redemption as he runs for a congressional seat he held for three terms in the 1990's. He was in his second term as governor in 2009 when he briefly disappeared from public view for several days and re-emerged, claiming 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 and he finished his second term as governor in January 2011, exiting to what many thought would be political obscurity.

But he's back, beating out 15 other candidates to win the Republican nomination in a congressional district that the GOP has held for over 30 years.

Sanford was considered the favorite in the May election until two weeks ago, when court documents revealed his ex-wife, Jenny, had filed complaints against Sanford for trespassing on her property. He's scheduled for a court appearance two days after the election.

Not long after the 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 for the 1st Congressional District, a longtime Republican stronghold.

CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report

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