Sanford struggles after trespass charge

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s (R) bid for a political comeback has been badly damaged by allegations he trespassed at his ex-wife’s home, a new poll suggests. 

Sanford trails Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch by 9 points — 41 percent to 50 percent — ahead of the May 7 special election in South Carolina’s 1st congressional district, found the survey from Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm. 

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The poll is the latest sign of trouble for Sanford’s campaign since it emerged last week that his ex-wife, Jenny, had filed a complaint in family court alleging the Republican candidate repeatedly trespassed on her Sullivan’s Island, S.C., property. 

The National Republican Congressional Committee decided to cut off any support for Sanford in the wake of the accusations, just as Democrats began their own barrage of ads targeting the ex-governor. 

A veterans’ group, VoteVets Action Fund, added to the on-air attacks against Sanford on Monday with a spot highlighting his well-known disappearance in 2009 that led to the discovery of his extramarital affair with an Argentinian woman.

A planned fundraiser in Washington this week for Sanford, which was to have been hosted by the South Carolina congressional delegation, was canceled. Sources say the event was spiked at Sanford’s behest because he needed to remain in the district to campaign.

In documents filed with the Family Court for the Ninth Judicial District in South Carolina, Jenny Sanford accuses her ex-husband of entering her property “without her permission and against her wishes” on multiple occasions. 

The incidents include one on Feb. 3, in which Jenny Sanford says she caught her ex-husband leaving her home while using his cellphone as a flashlight. The former governor said he went to the house to watch the Super Bowl with his 14-year-old son. 

The PPP poll underscores the challenges Sanford faces trying to rehabilitate his image, which was left in tatters when he admitted to the affair with the Argentinian woman after telling his aides that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Sanford’s personal favorability ratings remain underwater. Fifty-six percent of voters disapprove of him, compared to 38 percent who approve. 

The poll also shows that, despite the fact that the district leans heavily Republican, Democrats are much more enthusiastic about the race. 

While partisan polls often draw skepticism, PPP’s polling tends to be accurate. The firm correctly measured the spread between Sanford and his GOP primary opponent, Curtis Bostic, in an earlier poll. In that survey, Colbert Busch had a 2-point lead on Sanford.

The automated survey of 796 likely voters was conducted from April 19-21, shortly after the trespassing allegations against Sanford became public. It has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Sanford and his ex-wife are due in court on May 9, two days after the election to fill the Charleston-based House seat, which Tim Scott (R) vacated when he was appointed to the Senate.