CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford can't seem to escape attacks on the extramarital affair that derailed his political career, which he hopes to revive in a special congressional election that is now a week away.
For months, his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, refused to criticize Sanford's affair — which was uncovered during his term as governor when he visited his then-mistress in Argentina under the guise of hiking the Appalachian Trail. Sanford seldom found himself on the defensive this spring, instead focusing on a message of redemption and seeking voters' forgiveness.
But Colbert Busch in recent days has been airing an ad blasting him for lying to the people of the state, and she criticized him during a debate at The Citadel on Monday for using taxpayer funds to "leave the country for a personal purpose." Sanford didn't respond.
On Tuesday, Colbert Busch, the sister of political satirist Stephen Colbert, stood by the criticism.
"We're just talking about the facts. We're just talking about the differences between the two," Colbert Busch said when asked about the change in strategy after speaking to an AACP group in Goose Creek. "We're talking about policy and we're talking about how differently we would lead."
The attacks came even as Sanford, a Republican, picked up the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a tea party favorite who is considering a presidential run.
A new television ad from the House Majority PAC that went up Tuesday tells voters not to cast their ballots for Sanford, a man the Democratic super PAC says has values that are not those of Republicans. And a billboard on an interstate near Columbia — outside the 1st Congressional District where Sanford is running — uses Sanford's photo to advertise a website where people can meet partners for extramarital affairs.
Colbert Busch's campaign ad says she worked to provide trained workers for the Boeing plant in North Charleston and that Sanford knew it. The ad came after an earlier Sanford ad questioned her claim she "worked with Boeing."
"It's the same Mark Sanford who used tax dollars to visit his mistress in Argentina," the Colbert Busch ad says. "He disappeared for a week leaving no one in charge. He betrayed all who trusted in him and then lied to cover it up."
Before leaving office, Sanford avoided impeachment but was censured by the Legislature over state travel expenses he used for the affair. He also paid the largest ethics fine ever in South Carolina, $70,000.
Sanford did not respond directly to the new attacks or the billboard.
The ad from the House Majority PAC shows a woman who claims she is a lifelong Republican saying she could not vote for Sanford.
"I used to be for Mark Sanford but not anymore. He skipped town to be with his mistress on Father's Day. Sanford even asked his wife for permission to have the affair and wasted our taxpayer dollars on himself. I'm a Republican, but Mark Sanford just does not share our values," says the woman, Jennifer Stark of Mount Pleasant.