Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch worked during a debate Monday to cast Republican rival Mark Sanford as a dishonest job-killer who voted against the dredging of the Charleston port, while Sanford worked to characterize her as a wishy-washy union-backer relying on special interest money from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other national Democrats.
Monday's lively debate at The Citadel, sponsored by Patch and the S.C. Radio Network, will be the sole face-off between the two 1st Congressional District candidates before the May 7 election.
Stark contrasts were apparent throughout, including Sanford's vote against the dredging of the Charleston port while in Congress.
Colbert Busch said she met with then-Congressman Sanford when she was working as a government liaison for a maritime company to encourage Sanford to support the dredging project. Sanford, she said, indicated he would do so.
"And in fact you didn't tell the truth. In fact, you turned around and did the opposite," Colbert Busch said to Sanford.
Sanford fired back that Colbert Busch later wrote him a $500 campaign-contribution check during his first gubernatorial run.
"I don't think it must have bothered her that much, given she wrote a $500 check in support of my candidacy," said Sanford, smiling.
Sanford also denied Colbert Busch's claims he did not support the dredging and other economic-development projects, adding he disagreed with the methods of paying for the projects, not the actual projects.
"Because I was against earmarks before being against earmarks was cool," he said.
Meanwhile, Sanford worked to tie Colbert Busch to Pelosi who, he repeatedly said, has put money in the race through national Democratic groups that are attempting to buy the election.
"I don't think Nancy Pelosi gives $370,000 expecting (Colbert Busch) not to vote for (her for) speaker," Sanford said.
Colbert Busch never directly addressed the Pelosi charge, leaving it instead to her supporters who booed each time Sanford mentioned Pelosi.
"Nobody tells me what to do except the people of South Carolina's 1st District," Colbert Busch said.
Sanford also cast Colbert Busch as someone who would support the agenda of unions, including the Machinists union that filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming a Boeing executive had made illegal, retaliatory comments about the union's activities.
"You've taken $70,000 from labor unions," said Sanford, who is running an ad in which Colbert Busch says she wants to be the voice of unions.
Colbert Busch said the comments were taken out of context and that she's proud to live in a right-to-work state where the National Labor Relations Board "had no business telling a company where they can locate."
Only one reference was made to Sanford's 2009 admission to an extramarital affair.
Answering a question about spending, Colbert Busch referenced Sanford's surprise absence from the state in June 2009 during which he visited his lover, who is now his fiancee.
"When we talk about fiscal spending and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn't mean you take that money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose," she said.
"She went there, Gov. Sanford," said the moderator.
"I couldn't hear what she said," Sanford responded. "Repeat it, I didn't hear it."
"Answer the question," Colbert Busch said.
"What was the question?" asked Sanford, who then answered the original question on spending.
During her closing comments, Colbert Busch said that if elected, she would "return 10 percent of her salary to the taxpayers until we are on a path to get the country's fiscal house put back in order." She also called on Congress to cut its own pay by 10 percent.
The most recent polling on the race, by a Democratic firm, shows Colbert Busch ahead by 9 percentage points.
Voters get the final say during the May 7 special election to fill the seat vacated by Tim Scott, who was appointed to the Senate.