Democrat Colbert Busch says she can win congressional seat

gsmith@islandpacket.comFebruary 9, 2013 

Elizabeth Colbert-Busch


  • Voters can meet Elizabeth Colbert Busch at a ribbon-cutting for her new campaign office at 1306 Fording Island Road, Suite 108, in Bluffton. The event will be at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

She’s the sister of Comedy Central comedian Stephen Colbert, a respected businesswoman in Charleston and the Democrats’ best chance to take down former Gov. Mark Sanford in the 1st Congressional District race.

Meet Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who is gearing up for her first foray into S.C. politics.

Her uphill challenge: Winning a seat to represent a Lowcountry district always held by a man and specifically drawn for a Republican by S.C. lawmakers. The district, which includes most of Beaufort County, was recently vacated by Tim Scott, a Charleston Republican who was appointed to replace Jim DeMint in the U.S. Senate.

Colbert Busch, a director at Clemson University’s Restoration Institute who helped bring the world’s largest wind turbine to the North Charleston facility and wind energy jobs to the area, said she’s hoping voters won’t get caught up on the “D” or “R” by candidates’ names.

Instead, she’s hoping her experience in business, including with the maritime industry, international trade and shipping, and education, will make the case she’s the one for the job.

“Growing jobs has no party. Education has no party,” said Colbert Busch, a longtime Charleston resident whose deceased father, Dr. Jim Colbert, is the namesake of the library and education center at the Medical University of South Carolina. When Colbert Busch was a 19-year-old student at the University of South Carolina, her father and two of 10 siblings were killed in a plane crash in Charlotte.

Colbert Busch, a married mother and grandmother, is building a platform that includes creating more jobs in S.C. by deepening the Charleston harbor. Colbert Busch said she would request that money targeted specifically for the project be included in the federal budget — a difference from her Republican challengers. She also is exploring ways to build a research park to support S.C. businesses, including those in the renewable energy field.

But Colbert Busch stops short of saying whether federal spending should be cut and whether paying down the nation’s debt should be a priority. That’s been the focus of the 16 GOP candidates vying for the seat.

“We do have to balance our budget,” she said Friday, adding she wants to talk to residents in the district before taking a stand. “But I’m not an economist. I will go look. I will make a decision.”

And she’s staying mum on whom she sees as her real competition in the race until after the March 19 primary that will determine the Republican candidate.

Colbert Busch also faces two Democrats to become her party’s nominee.

While many of the state’s politicos say the seat will go to a Republican, Democratic strategists think otherwise.

“They (the Republican candidates) will all try and ‘out-conservative’ each other in the primary, giving either of the strong moderate Democrats in the race a real opportunity to shock a lot of people,” said Tyler Jones, an S.C. Democratic consultant.

“That district may be Republican, but it isn’t tea party,” Tyler said, referring to the moderate approach to spending among the area’s voters. And she’s pleased to have the support of her famous brother, Stephen Colbert, who has poked plenty of fun at his home state.

In 2011, Stephen Colbert met with S.C. Republican Party officials to buy naming rights for the state’s first-in-the-South GOP presidential primary. Party leaders declined the comedian’s request to name the primary “The Colbert Nation Super PAC Presidential Primary” but agreed to place a question on the primary ballot in exchange for a hefty donation from Colbert’s PAC.

Colbert gave his big sister, whom the Colbert family calls Lulu, a shout-out on his comedy show Wednesday, saying he cannot support his sister because she’s a Democrat.

“It was wonderful. It was so good and so funny,” Colbert Busch said of her brother’s comments. “Just like my other brothers and sisters, he is behind me 100 percent.”

The two Colbert siblings are planning a fundraiser soon. Her website lists a fundraising dinner in New York City on Feb. 22.

In the invitation, Stephen Colbert writes, “There are three Democrats and sixteen Republicans running in the Primary, including former Governor and renowned hike-lover Mark Sanford. Our chances look good.”

Follow reporter Gina Smith at

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