In the days before the 1st Congressional District primaries, former Gov. Mark Sanford has become the Republican to beat.
Internal polling by several campaigns indicate Sanford has captured about one-third of likely GOP voters, making him the front-runner.
That's leading to some mudslinging among the other candidates vying to emerge from Tuesday's GOP primary. Assuming no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote -- which is not expected with 16 candidates in the race -- Sanford and the runner-up will duke it out in an April 2 GOP runoff.
Candidates most often following behind Sanford in recent internal polling are state Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston; Teddy Turner, a Charleston teacher and son of media mogul Ted Turner; and former state Sen. John Kuhn, an attorney with offices in Bluffton and Charleston. Curtis Bostic, a former Charleston County Council member; and Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, are also making gains with social conservatives.It's feeding the slugfest South Carolina politics has become known for.
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TURNER KICKS IN DOOR?
A 2006 police report has been leaked that alleges Turner broke in the door of the Charleston home he shared with his then-wife.
No charges were filed against Turner, who has since remarried, campaign spokesman Michael Smith said.
"This report was not filed by the police. Instead, it was filed by my ex-wife and her attorney during our divorce," Turner said in a statement. "The property damaged was my own, and no charges arose following the filing of the incident report.
"Given the lengths to which several career politicians are going with their smear campaigns targeting me -- from sending out expensive direct-mail pieces that contain outright lies and distortions of my statements on the campaign trail, to spending $75,000 to run a commercial that presents voters more lies and distortions -- I'm not surprised someone may be trying to distort the facts about this matter, too."
Turner needed his then-wife to sign some paperwork before he and their children left for a two-week trip to Africa, according to the report. When she did not answer the phone because she was in the shower, he damaged the door to gain entry, according to the report.
BOSTIC BIG SPENDER?
Another candidate taking hits is Bostic, a former Charleston County Council member who is being labeled a big spender because of the county's growing budgets during his eight years on council.
The budget grew by an average of 6 percent during his tenure. Bostic, whose campaign website is www.stopspending.com, voted in favor of the budgets.
On Thursday, Bostic acknowledged the budgets rose but said it was because taxpayers wanted to spend more on road projects and mass transit.
In 2004, Charleston County voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects and more -- a measure Bostic opposed.
"The budget increased because voters wanted it to increase. I didn't agree, but that's what they wanted," he said, adding that the number of county employees and the millage rate decreased during his time on council and that the budget was balanced each year.
In 2002, Bostic voted for a 6-percent budget increase. He said Thursday he could not recall why he supported it.
Bostic may be getting more attention from rivals because he's on the rise in several internal polls, gaining increasing support from social conservatives and families who homeschool their children, as Bostic's family does.
That support includes about three dozen ministers, Bostic said.
SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE CHOICE
A candidate like Bostic or state Sen. Grooms, who can attract both social and fiscal conservatives, might be the only chance of stopping a Sanford GOP nomination, some S.C. politicos say.
"There's a possible opening for someone who can appeal to both," said Luke Byars, an S.C. Republican operative. "It's hard to say if it's much of a chance though. Sanford's message of forgiveness is appealing to many social conservatives, and he's done well with them in the past."
Grooms was just endorsed by national evangelical Christian leader David Barton and is the sole candidate making defense of traditional marriage a campaign issue. He has said he will "defend traditional marriage against every attack."
"Quite frankly, I'm appalled that the other candidates refused to stand up for traditional marriage," Grooms said this week after several rival Republicans said gay marriage was not an issue the government should get involved in.
LIMEHOUSE HAS $600K
It takes a lot of money for candidates to get their messages out. And many are digging deep into their own wallets to do it.
Limehouse, a state lawmaker since 1995 and co-owner of Charleston area hotels and a real estate management company, has loaned his campaign the most so far: $600,025.
"In a normal race, when you have 14 months to prepare, ... you can raise nearly all of your money from others," Limehouse said. "But it's very hard to be competitive district-wide when there's so little time."
Limehouse adds that he, like several other candidates, must be in Columbia three days each week working at the Statehouse.
Other top self-financers are Kuhn at $500,000; Turner at $245,000; Elizabeth Moffly at $205,000; and Grooms and Bostic at $100,000 each.
- Former SC Gov. Mark Sanford leading in congressional campaign fundraising game, March 8, 2013
- Sanford, Kuhn spar over TV ad, March 7, 2013
- Former Gov. Mark Sanford's rough signs mask polished congressional campaign effort, March 6, 2013
- Sanford, opponents disagree on former governor's record, March 2, 2013