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McCaskill jumps into S. Car. congressional contest for Elizabeth Colbert Busch

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Following her own come-from-behind victory, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill cites her success as she seeks to aid a fellow Democrat in the nationally watched special election May 7 for a U.S. House seat in South Carolina between former Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, and Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert.

In an e-mail fundraising blitz this morning, McCaskill, D-Mo., minces no words in her jabs at Sanford:

“He was all over the news a few years back after secretly abandoning his post as governor of South Carolina and using tax dollars to visit his mistress in Argentina,” McCaskill wrote. “All the while, his staff used the excuse that the governor's absence was just due to him ‘hiking the Appalachian trail.’

“We have a lot of important issues going on in Congress right now, and the last thing we need is another self-serving, far-right Republican in the House,” McCaskill continued.

Sanford and Colbert are competing for the U.S. House seat that became vacant when Republican Tim Scott was appointed in December to the U.S. Senate by Gov. Nikki Haley, also a Republican. Scott filled the seat vacated when powerful Senate Republican Jim DeMint unexpectedly resigned to become head of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

McCaskill’s involvement on behalf of Busch highlights the Democrats’ belief that the businesswoman and first-time candidate might be able to pull off a victory in the GOP-leaning district, particularly since Sanford's personal behavior has continued to make news since his divorce. Some Republican groups have withdrawn their support as a result.

McCaskill’s presence also underscores the continued Democratic pitch to moderate and progressive women voters, who are considered key in the South Carolina contest – and elsewhere.

President Barack Obama, whom McCaskill famously endorsed back in 2007 (despite some strains since then), has made news this week with the disclosure that he’s headlining a dinner Thursday for Planned Parenthood – a lightning-rod group for many Republicans because the agency provides reproductive services, including abortions in some states.

McCaskill’s victory last fall is credited largely to the fact that reproductive rights became a defining issue in her contest against Republican Todd Akin after his “legitimate rape’’ comment last August.

She defeated Akin by close to 15 percentage points -- and McCaskill's edge among women voters was believed to have been even larger, which fits in with the continued Democratic focus on women voters.

Akin also is expected to be in the news later this week; his  interview on top St. Louis TV station KSDK (Channel 5) is schduled to be broadcast on Thursday. Since his loss, Akin had declined to speak to news outlets, including the Beacon.

The TV station is touting the interview as a sign that Akin’s may be seeking to make a comeback. He might be interested in how Sanford’s quest pans out.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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