Saturday, February 16, 2013
A full house greeted 1st Congressional District Democratic candidate Elizabeth Colbert-Busch this morning at Madra Rua.
The breakfast meeting combined Dorchester and Berkeley County Democrats to hear one of the two candidates vying for the party nomination in next month's primary. A special election is planned to fill the seat left open by Tim Scott's departure. Scott was appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley to fill the term of Jim Demint who left the U.S. Senate to head up the right-wing think tank Heritage Foundation in December. The primary will be held on March 19, with a runoff on April 2, if needed. The general election is currently scheduled for May 7.
Colbert-Busch, introduced by Berkeley County Democratic Chair Melissa Watson, told of the path that inspired her to run for office, beginning with her mother taking her to see then-candidate John Kennedy in a parade.
“I was six years old, and I saw this unbelievable, statesman-like man,” she said.
Her father, who had been part of the Physicians for Kennedy group, moved the family to Washington D.C. following Kennedy's election to work at the National Institute of Health.
She recalled her mother's excitement following the march on Washington and hearing Dr. Martin Luther King speak.
“She told all nine of us – there were only nine of us then, but eventually 11 children – that as humans it was our duty to take care of each other.
“Then King was shot, and Robert Kennedy came to lead. And then he was shot,”
Colbert-Busch said those events shaped her desire to serve even then.
“Women didn't run for office then, but I thought that someday I would run for office,” she said.
When she was 14 the family moved to Charleston. Her father was instrumental in settling a hospital strike by urging both sides to reach out and come to an agreement.
But tragedy struck the family on Sept. 11, 1974 when the plane carrying her father and two of her brothers crashed near Charlotte.
“I saw in my mother a powerful woman. She is a faith-filled woman and she said to all of us that every life has hardships and sadness. She had just lost her husband and two of her 11 children, but she told us we had to keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
Colbert-Busch eventually married and had three children. When her marriage ended she went back to school, got her degree and began her career as a data entry clerk on the waterfront. She rose through the ranks as a leader.
“This community knew my story, and they paid it forward for me. I want to do that for this community,” she said.
Colbert-Busch was an integral part of bringing Clemson's wind turbine project to the Lowcountry.
She asked Santee Cooper's Liz Kress, who was at the breakfast in support of Colbert-Busch, to stand and be recognized. Colbert-Busch described Kress as a leader and visionary in the renewable energy field. Kress is head of Santee Cooper's Palmetto Wind Research Project, a loosely knit group focused on studying the feasibility of offshore wind farms.
Colbert-Busch told the gathering that South Carolina is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the partnership of Santee Cooper, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Clemson research facility to become the leader in the field with a potential of 20,000 jobs coming to the state.
“We already have 1,900 jobs here in this industry. This is real and happening now. The next revolution is energy and it is something we can do here in South Carolina,” she said.
She emphasized the need for education and having a workforce ready to do the jobs that are coming.
Colbert-Busch took a few questions from the crowd before leaving for the opening of the counties' combined Democratic headquarters.
Antoinette Winston asked Colbert-Busch how she stood on the minimum wage moving to $9 an hour as suggested by President Obama last week.
“Everyone is entitled to a fair wage,” Colbert-Busch said. “I do know if you are working and getting paid below the poverty level, there is something wrong with that. We also need to look at the inequities in taxes.”
Colbert-Busch plans to speak at several fundraisers and community events in the next week. Saturday her brother Stephen Colbert will host a fundraiser in Charleston, and on Sunday she is the speaker at the Lowcountry Black Historical Society awards at Summerville High School.
Following Colbert-Busch's departure Tyler Jones, who is running for the third vice chair of the S.C. Democratic Party, spoke about the need to take advantage of this special election and work toward the 2014 election.
“We need a plan in each county to elect democrats at every level,” Jones said.
Summerville Town Councilman Aaron Brown echoed Jones' sentiments by leading a chant to “elect more Democrats.”
Rep. Joe Jefferson also urged supporting Democratic candidates.