Ominous. That’s how Georgia Republicans described Mark Sanford’s surprise victory Tuesday over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the special election to fill South Carolina’s vacant first congressional district.
The nine-point win by Sanford, the disgraced former governor whose personal baggage was thought by many to be too great a liability to overcome as he campaigned for his old House seat, has both everything and yet nothing to do with Peach State politics.
Most Georgians only became familiar with Sanford as the unseemly details of his extramarital affair unfolded on cable news programs, but it was the inability of his rival, a political newcomer whose cachet was primarily grounded in her success in the business and not-for-profit sectors, to connect with voters that Republicans say signals bad news for Democratic chances in Georgia’s U.S. Senate race next year.
Left to cope without the party’s top possible recruit, conservative Democratic Rep. John Barrow, who announced he would seek reelection to the House over a Senate bid, Georgia Democrats are now poised to nominate their own Colbert Busch: Michelle Nunn, a prominent nonprofit strategist who boasts a gilded surname in these parts.
Nunn’s father, Sam, once held the Senate seat up for grabs in next year’s race, but she claims no personal experience in the political arena and, like the Colbert Busch experiment, would likely pitch voters a technocratic vision of public service.
But Republicans say that formula has already been tested by voters whose conservative orientation closely mirrors the public sentiment found in Georgia.
“Michelle Nunn’s campaign is a nonstarter,” one Republican commented to Tipsheet. “Georgia voters are savvy enough to recognize that she’s a cardboard retread of Elizabeth Colbert Busch, only our sad version doesn’t pack the same late night comedy punch. After tonight, Democrats would have to be dumber than a sack of hammers to be excited about a Nunn candidacy.”
- James Richardson