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Gov. Haley to be guest at Sanford fundraiser

By Andrew Shain
ashain@thestate.com

The former Republican S.C. governor running for Congress finally is getting help from the state’s current GOP governor.

Gov. Nikki Haley will be the special guest at a fundraiser Wednesday in Charleston for Mark Sanford, the GOP nominee in the May 7 special election for the 1st District congressional seat.

The event is Haley’s first with her one-time mentor in his race against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a political newcomer and sister of TV comedian Stephen Colbert. The appearance by South Carolina’s first female governor comes as Sanford is trying to overcome a huge gap among women who favor Colbert Busch by 20 percentage points, according to a poll released last week.

The fundraiser is at the home of luxury car dealer Tommy Baker, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by the S.C. blog GOPwrite.com. The event costs from $250 a person to $2,600 for a couple to attend.

“Nikki believes it is critical that South Carolina speak with as much unity as possible on key federal issues facing our state, such as labor union powers, Obamacare and deficit spending,” Haley political advisor Tim Pearson said. “Mark Sanford is clearly the candidate who will stand with our congressional delegation in fighting Washington’s overreach.”

Haley has no plans for other events, public or private, with Sanford in the week before the election, Pearson said.

Sanford campaign spokesman Joel Sawyer had no comment, other than to confirm Haley’s attendance at the fundraising event.

Colbert Busch had raised more campaign money than Sanford in recent weeks, but the ex-governor had more cash on hand to spend as of mid-March, according to campaign reports released Friday.

Sanford left the Governor’s Mansion in 2011 under a cloud left by a state-record $74,000 in ethics fines and the dissolution of his marriage after he confessed to having an affair with an Argentinian woman in 2009.

Haley’s campaign scrubbed references to Sanford from her gubernatorial website after his affair became public. Despite that, a pro-Sanford group bought $400,000 in ads showing Haley at a Tea Party rally, helping buoy her candidacy at a time when she was trailing in the GOP primary field.

Haley also received support from Sanford’s ex-wife, Jenny, during the campaign.

Democrats said Monday that Sanford and Haley, who was cleared last year by two S.C. House investigations into allegations that she used her post as a Lexington state representative for her personal financial benefit, both are “ethically challenged.”

“Haley and Sanford are two peas in an ethically challenged pod, who have proved time and again that they can’t be trusted to act in the best interests of the people or our state,” the S.C. Democratic Party said in a statement Monday.

Sanford is trying to recapture the congressional seat he held from 1995-2001 by riding his fiscally conservative record and worries that Colbert Busch would align with the most-liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

The seat covering the Lowcountry coast opened when Haley appointed Tim Scott in January to fill the unexpired term of U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, who resigned to become the head of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

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