By Molly K. Hooper - 05/07/13 03:12 PM EDT
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday offered lukewarm support for Mark Sanford on the day of South Carolina’s House special election, saying the former governor’s political future was now up to the voters.
Asked if GOP leaders would “welcome” Sanford with “open arms” into the conference, Boehner told reporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill that “the voters of the first district of South Carolina will make their decision.”
Sanford, who ended his tenure as governor in disgrace after admitting an extramarital affair with an Argentinian woman, is seeking to re-enter political life by capturing the House seat vacated by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). Sanford served in the House before entering the governor’s office.
Polls show Sanford in a neck-and-neck race with Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of Comedy Central funnyman Stephen Colbert.
Boehner endorsed Sanford weeks ago, following the candidate’s GOP primary win, but on Tuesday, the Speaker would not even say the former lawmaker’s name.
According to sources at a closed-door GOP conference meeting earlier in the morning, Republican lawmakers also avoided mentioning Sanford’s name when discussing today’s special election.
The Sanford campaign has suffered a number of setbacks in the heavily Republican district, carried by GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.
Several weeks ago, the House GOP’s campaign arm, pulled funding from Sanford’s race after legal files surfaced that showed the former South Carolina governor “trespassed” on his ex-wife's property.
Since that time, Sanford has received little support from his Republican colleagues in South Carolina.
On Tuesday, Sanford said he was optimistic that voters would forgive his personal missteps and return him to the House.