In Tuesday’s South Carolina special congressional election, Republican Mark Sanford overcame bad press to defeat Democrat businesswoman Elizabeth Colbert Busch, leaving many political spectators wondering if the race will have implications in 2014.
Sanford’s win was anything but assured. In 2009, the Republican former governor left office in disgrace after it was disclosed that he had an affair and used state funds to visit his mistress in South America. And just before the election, Sanford is alleged to have violated a court order by trespassing on his ex-wife’s property. Nevertheless, the South Carolina congressional district saw a Republican win, as it has in every election for past thirty years.
Sanford’s win isn’t shocking in and of itself, and it may not even be a bellwether of Republican prospects in the 2014 midterms. Sanford had already represented the district that elected him back in the 1990s, and Democrats haven’t won a Republican-held seat in the state in 25 years. Despite the fact that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won the district by 18 points less than six months earlier, and that special elections have notoriously leaned Republican, Sanford managed to beat Colbert Busch by only 9 points. Sanford won in a solidly Republican district.
Both sides can find ways to see the race as indicative of potential strengths or weaknesses heading into 2014, but one thing that can be agreed on is how little it will likely change the makeup of the House. With the Tea Party faction unwilling to govern without their entire agenda acquiesced to, Sanford, who considers this win a sign that he is an “imperfect man saved by God’s grace,” appears ready to join them in their battle to obstruct. His campaign stump speeches tying Colbert Busch to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made it clear that his agenda on his return to Congress was to oppose anything being proposed or supported by Democrats, especially if it involves the Affordable Care Act or reproductive rights.