In Congress there’s governance and then there’s getting there to govern. For South Carolina’s Elizabeth Colbert Busch, candidate for the state’s District 1 House seat, Monday night’s debate with opponent Mark Sanford was all about the journey. You have to get elected by the home folks to have a chance to contribute to the process.
And the home folks of District 1 are a solid majority of Republicans. Busch has to walk a tight political tightrope to get herself elected. She has to pick off disparate chunks of district residents who wouldn’t normally vote democratic.
The debate was held on the Citadel campus and it featured just Busch and Sanford. Earlier media reports that the Green Party candidate would also participate proved false. I thought the host and panel did a good job overall. If they had prejudices against either debater, they repressed them.
Busch was the grown-up in the proceedings. Sanford was a petulant teenager who had an odd, sing-songy soprano delivery and sounded like a smarmy smart alec.
As for the debate itself, there were numerous occasions that if you didn’t know better you would have thought it was a moderate Republican squaring off against a radical Republican. That’s a condition of “getting there to govern.” Busch made repeated references to the Chamber of Commerce, a group that heavily funds far-right, big business groupie candidates. The Chamber hates Democrats. Busch was downright Obamaesque in repeatedly calling for “reaching across the aisle and bipartisanship.” That’s for moderates and Independents in the crowd because hard-core 1st District Republicans have no intention of reaching across the aisle; ever!
Busch said she backed the Chamber position on immigration reform. “Pay taxes and fines, learn English and get in the back of the line.” Or was that Sanford? When asked about union’s role in society, she defaulted once more to the Chamber. She later enthused that she was a strong supporter of South Carolina as a “Right to Work” state. That presupposes an anti-union stance. Makes sense. Why would the constituency want union-negotiated higher wages, decent benefits, humane hours and a safe workplace? As an aside it was union pressures that saved Saturday mail delivery. And had there been a union at West Fertilizer Company, there might be 15 more people still walking the earth today.
The ‘Right to Work nonsense is a Little White Political Lie (LWPL) of course. I suspect Busch is a strong union supporter. And I think 1st District Democratic voters are wise to that fact. Apparently the strategy is to pick off just enough Republican anti-union votes to carry the day. But maybe not, as Sanford easily rebutted Busch by pointing out significant contributions to the Busch campaign from unions.
There was lots of talk about the Sanford House vote against the dredging and deepening of the Port of Charleston and an accompanying bridge issue and that he was the only Representative to do so. His non-responsive answer was something about earmarks and that if you (Busch) didn’t like my votes, why did you write me a $500 check? The Port is a vital local economic issue of little interest to the rest of the country but it could earn Busch some valuable extra votes.
Busch surprised me with her outburst criticizing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “Obamacare is extremely problematic.” I thought her answer and tone was unnecessarily strident. She went on to say Obamacare was expensive and needs an enormous fix. She did concede that it protects women against discrimination and that covering pre-existing conditions is a good thing. She once again mentioned the Chamber in that she supported its position on extending Medicaid. Sanford wants health savings accounts pledging to defund Obamacare. He also brought up a Busch Washington fundraiser attended by “37 Democrats who voted for Obamacare.”
While talking about ACA and the Obama government, the Democratic candidate described herself as a “fiscally CONSERVATIVE, Independent business woman.”She’s also “A really proud defender of the 2nd amendment.” What’s this woman doing with a ‘D’ behind her name? Hopefully it’s pure LWPL’s once she reaches Congress.
Busch said entitlement reform was needed to cut the federal debt. Such reform would center on Medicare waste, fraud and abuses such as overbilling. She pointed out that Social Security was solvent for another 20 years, plenty of time to work out bipartisan solutions. She also repeated a point she’s often made on the campaign trail; that Medicare be allowed to negotiate drug prices.
Sanford prefers to block grant Medicaid and privatize social security. Busch pointed out that a recent stock market slump would have cost the elderly ½ of their social security payments. Sanford responded with shock that he didn’t mean just plain old risky investing. He said something about annuities with no further details.
During the debate on federal spending, Busch got in her best zinger of the night. After citing the 4% sequester FFA cut impacting 40% of commercial flights she said the sequester was poorly negotiated and we need to cut spending. She followed with “that doesn’t mean to take the money we saved and leave the country for personal purposes”, a clear reference to Sanford’s lover-boy flight to meet with his Argentine mistress. Sanford’s supremely disingenuous response was, “I didn’t hear what you said.” Busch didn’t press the huge opening further but later Sanford himself weakly defended the “elephant in the room” when it was pointed out that he voted to impeach Bill Clinton for an extramarital affair something Sanford was subsequently guilty of on numerous occasions.
On education, Busch wants to push the science, technology, English and math (STEM) strategy referencing the U.S. trailing K-12 position among industrialized nations. Other highlights included the Sanford solution for helping small businesses “Get government out of the way.” Busch quoted figures that 98,000 jobs were lost during Sanford’s tenure as governor and 37% of Port traffic went elsewhere.
Predictably, both candidates snuggled up to Boeing. Sanford dropped as many top management names as time allotted and accused Busch of supporting unions that were tying to shut down the industrial giant. In a nod to incentive whore Boeing, Busch affirmed her support for incentives, “Incentives are very important in economic development.”
There wasn’t enough debate on women’s issues though Busch did say abortion was between a women, her faith and her doctor.
Throughout the debate Sanford kept making juvenile references to Nancy Pelosi as a strong financial enabler for the Busch campaign. He essentially accused Busch of accepting the money in exchange for her vote for Pelosi as Speaker if the Democrats capture the House. I can’t imagine a sensible person casting a vote for Sanford. As for Busch, it’s a matter of separating her true beliefs from the one’s she had to express in trolling for non-tradition votes for a Democratic candidate.
It’ll be close on May 7th. The outcome will be pure GOTV.