Tuesday was a day of highs and lows for 1st Congressional District candidate Mark Sanford: Nationally recognized fiscal conservative and possible presidential contender Rand Paul endorsed his campaign, but an online dating website plastered his face on a billboard to promote extramarital affairs.
Meanwhile, his Democratic opponent in the May 7 special election, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, campaigned across Beaufort and Charleston counties where most of the district’s voters live. She attended fundraisers and forums, declaring herself the victor in Monday night’s debate.
Both candidates are hitting the campaign trail full throttle with just one week remaining before the election to fill the seat vacated when Republican Tim Scott accepted Gov. Nikki Haley’s appointment to replace retiring Sen. Jim DeMint.
Early Tuesday, Sen. Paul endorsed Sanford.
“More than anything, Washington needs strong and consistent voices for fiscal responsibility and liberty,” Paul said. “Mark has proven during his time in office that watching out for taxpayers and holding the line on spending are his top priorities. What we absolutely cannot afford is someone like his opponent, who will be yet another vote for a return to the (Nancy) Pelosi speakership, for disastrous programs like Obamacare, and for more spending and debt. I am pleased to endorse Mark and stand with him in this race.”
Meanwhile, AshleyMadison.com, a dating website for married people looking to cheat, highlighted a different part of Sanford’s history.
The Toronto-based company put up a new billboard along Interstate 26 at mile marker 137 near Columbia — outside the 1st District. It features a smiling picture of Sanford with the words, “Next time use ... AshleyMadison.com to find your ‘running mate.’ ” The sign refers to Sanford’s 2009 admission to an extramarital affair with Maria Belen Chapur, an Argentinian woman who is now his fiancee.
Noel Biderman, AshelyMadison.com founder and CEO, said Tuesday the company applauds Sanford’s return to politics as evidence that quality leaders still have something to contribute to society following a stumble in their private lives.
“When we heard he was reapplying himself to politics, that is a mantra that we have, from the moment we started the website, screamed from the mountain tops. He still has something to offer. We don’t understand why Gen. (David) Petraeus or (possible New York mayoral contender Anthony) Weiner would have to step down. It has nothing to do with their ability to lead. It’s a private issue in their personal life,” said Biderman, referring to the former CIA director who stepped down following the revelation of an extramarital affair and the ex-congressman who sent lewd texts and pictures of his body parts to women.
“Being a flawed human makes you more of a real person that people can understand,” Biderman said, pointing to former President Bill Clinton as an example.
The company did not discuss the billboard with Sanford’s campaign before putting it up, Biderman said, adding he may put up more billboards in coming days.
Sanford’s campaign did not directly comment on the billboard.
“The fact that (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi allies are spending $1 million on ads to elect Elizabeth Colbert Busch is far more pertinent to voters here than some sign that isn’t even in the district,” said Joel Sawyer, Sanford’s spokesman.
Also Tuesday, Sanford received the unsolicited endorsement of Larry Flynt, founder and publisher of Hustler, a monthly pornographic magazine.
In a tongue-in-cheek statement, Flynt, a political agitator, called Sanford “the sex pioneer of our time” and applauded Sanford for exposing “sexual hypocrisy of traditional values in America today.”
Sanford has repeatedly apologized for the 2009 affair that ended his marriage, saying he has been humbled by the experience and believes in a God of second chances.
Colbert Busch was on the road Tuesday, too, speaking to a newly formed veterans and military family group backing her candidacy and speaking at a lunch sponsored by the Beaufort County Democratic Party.
Both she and Sanford also attended a Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce event before attending a forum sponsored by the Goose Creek NAACP.
The most recent polling by a Democratic firm showed Colbert Busch ahead by 9 percentage points.
But politicos point out the poll was conducted just a few days after the revelation that Sanford’s ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, accused him of entering her Sullivan’s Island home without her permission — an accusation Mark Sanford will have to answer in court two days after the election.
Sanford has responded that he was watching the Super Bowl with one of the couple’s sons, an explanation that may help him bounce back in a district that leans Republican and has supported Sanford in his previous races.