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S.C. congressional race has everything

Democratic candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch center speaks with attendees during campaign stop CharlestMaritime Center Tuesday April 30 2013 CharlestS.C. Former

Democratic candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch, center, speaks with attendees during a campaign stop at the Charleston Maritime Center on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 in Charleston, S.C. Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford can't seem to escape attacks on the extramarital affair that derailed his political career, which he hopes to revive in a special congressional election that is now a week away. For months, his Democratic opponent, Colbert Busch, refused to criticize Sanford's affair — which was uncovered during his term as governor when he visited his then-mistress in Argentina under the guise of hiking the Appalachian Trail. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt) ORG XMIT: SCRE203

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Updated: June 7, 2013 6:15AM

When a congressional race quacks like a duck, it’s going to get attention.

On Tuesday, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a Democratic businesswoman and sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, stands for election against the infamous, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford in a special election for the state’s First Congressional District seat.

Busch, 58, is upstaging her younger brother. The hot show here is not being produced out of a Comedy Central studio.

It’s out on the Carolina campaign trail, starring an Argentinian mistress, a wronged ex-wife, disgraced politician, porn peddler and a kooky, attention-hungry website.

Four short years ago, Sanford, a conservative Republican, made lurid headlines after the married father told staff members he was off hiking in Appalachia. He was actually in Buenos Aires with his mistress.

He got caught, and later paid $70,000 in ethics fines. His wife, Jenny, divorced him and wrote a book. Sanford is now engaged to his former mistress.

But the show must go on. So this year Sanford, 52, launched a redemption tour, begging forgiveness and humility. That act got him through his party’s primary. The GOP embraced him, eager to keep a seat that has been in Republican hands since the early 1980s. What’s a little infidelity and stupidity among friends?

Sexual transgressors seeking redemption tours are becoming a specialty in American politics. Just ask disgraced U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, the liberal Democrat caught tweeting a photo of his crotch. Now Weiner is mulling a run for mayor of the Big Apple.

Sanford’s infamy earned him a $2,600 campaign contribution and endorsement from Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine. The porn king produced a YouTube video, praising Sanford as a “great sex pioneer.” Sanford’s campaign repudiated the gesture.

Then comes, a website that you never heard of. Until last week, when its sponsors commissioned a billboard ad embellished with Sanford’s photo. The ad urged: “Next time use . . . to find your ‘running mate.’ “ promotes and encourages infidelity.

Sanford has made more knuckleheaded moves. The National Republican Congressional Committee pulled its support from his campaign after his ex-wife accused him of trespassing in their home, in violation of their divorce agreement.

Before Sanford, we hardly know ye, Elizabeth Colbert Busch.

Still, she ran a first-rate campaign. Her TV star brother helped her raise big bucks. Last week, she performed well in a crucial debate. Some late-breaking polls have her ahead in the race.

Forget the comedy. There’s a made-for-TV-drama in the making if Busch prevails on Tuesday.

Busch, a political newcomer, is running to the right. In Monday’s debate, for example, she reportedly criticized “ObamaCare” and touted her support of the Second Amendment.

Even if Busch prevails, the district remains solidly Republican. GOP honchos could easily retrench and return with a real candidate, and knock her off in 2014. The congressional balance of power is not at stake in this contest.

But it sure is fun. To be continued . . .

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