GOP establishment solidifying behind Sanford; Sens. Tim Scott, Lindsey Graham endorse

gsmith@islandpacket.comMay 1, 2013 

Republican Primary

In this file photo, Mark Sanford, flanked by sons Marshall (from left), Blake and Bolton, celebrates a first place finish in a field of 16 candidates in the Republican primary. His campaign signs, which some say look like the Argentinian flag, can be seen in the background. (Wade Spees/

WADE SPEES — Wade Spees

The S.C. Republican establishment is starting to line up behind the party's nominee, Mark Sanford, in the final days before the 1st Congressional District special election.

On Monday, Sanford picked up endorsements from U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, the popular Charleston Republican who recently vacated the congressional seat, and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime friend and godfather to one of Sanford's sons.

"On all the most important issues facing our state and country, from dealing with our dangerous levels of debt, to repealing or resisting the government health-care takeover, to standing up for Charleston jobs against the (National Labor Relations Board), 1st District voters have a stark choice," said Scott, who left the seat after Gov. Nikki Haley appointed him to the Senate. "Mark Sanford is hands down better on all of those issues, and that's why I believe he merits support."

Graham said Sanford will help fight Democrats in Congress.

"Mark has a proven track record cutting spending and fighting government expansion, something we sorely need more of in Washington," said Graham, a sometimes controversial Republican. He has been targeted by some national conservative groups and by state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, in his upcoming election in 2014 for not being more fiscally conservative.

The endorsements -- the only two so far from the state's congressional delegation -- come on the heels of several other big announcements of support for the Charleston Republican. On Tuesday, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a possible 2016 GOP presidential contender, endorsed Sanford. So did FreedomWorks, a national, tea party-affiliated group that advocates fiscal conservatism.

It may add some much-needed respectability to Sanford, who is staging a political comeback.

"The endorsements help Sanford," said Dave Woodard, a Clemson political scientist and Republican strategist who ran Graham's U.S. House campaigns in 1994 and 1996. "It takes away from the ex-governor out there on his own after the affair."

Sanford faces Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in Tuesday's election.

Colbert Busch has received campaign contributions from many notable national Democrats, including a political action committee with ties to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. However, she has received far fewer national endorsements, perhaps because few big-name Democrats hail from South Carolina.

Also, in a Republican-leaning district, where Pelosi and other national Democrats are unpopular, such endorsements might hurt her chances.

"I don't know of any national Democrat who could help her with an endorsement," Woodard said.

She has been endorsed by the state's top Democrat, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the sole Democrat in the state's delegation, as well as U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and Civil Rights leader.

The 1st District hasn't sent a Democrat to Congress in more than 30 years. Democrat Linda Ketner came close in 2008, receiving 48 percent of the vote against incumbent Republican Henry Brown. But in both 2010 and 2012, Scott overwhelmingly won the seat.

Related content

  1. Highs and lows for Mark Sanford on 1st Congressional District campaign trail, April 30, 2013
  2. Elizabeth Colbert Busch, Mark Sanford clash during only debate in congressional race, April 29, 2013

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