Who Is Stephen Colbert's Sister? (Aside from Being Stephen Colbert's Sister)

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The first (and maybe only) thing most people know about Elizabeth Colbert Busch is that she's Stephen Colbert's sister, but if she's going to pull off beating Mark Sanford, the former Republican South Carolina governor most famous for flying to Argentina to cheat on his wife, for a Congressional seat this fall, people are going to have to learn more about her.

Sanford's problem is the exact opposite: we know way too much about him -- about how he went missing as governor in 2009, claimed to be hiking on the Appalachian Trail, actually was with his Argentine mistress, asked his wife permission to keep seeing his girlfriend, and how she granted him permission to see him with a chaperone. Because women may not want to vote for a cheating husband -- 60 percent view Sanford unfavorably -- he risks losing in a district that Mitt Romney won by 18 points. An internal poll showed Colbert Busch leading Sanford by 47 percent to 44 percent this week. A Public Policy Polling survey showed her leading him 47 percent to 45 percent in late March. South Carolina Republicans worry that with few allies and toxic numbers among women Sanford's campaign will be "largely an exercise in seeking forgiveness for his transgressions four years ago," Politico's Alex Isenstadt reports. He'll have to farm out attacks on Colbert Busch to outside groups, because it could look pretty ugly for a cheater to bash a woman. But what will those groups attack?  

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Colbert Busch, on the other hand, has a much more limited public biography. And it's largely been her famous brother introducing her on the political stage. Colbert, campaigning out of character, has held multiple fundraisers for her, saying its "some sort of moral, almost biblical obligation." And though her campaign website doesn't dwell on her brother, it features family photos of them together, like at right, when he's a little kid, or below right, where they're bowling together. Colbert Busch's résumé is "solid" Politico says. So what's in it? Here's what we know. 

Bio: Colbert Busch's campaign is based on her biography. Republicans seem to think her job experience is her strength -- with a "national Republican" telling The Hill, "we need to fight back against her ‘small businesswoman job creator' mantra." This could be because her résumé is filled with items that include words like "COMMERCE" and "TRADE" and "BUSINESS." That could make it harder to bash her as a job-killing left-winger in this right-to-work state.

Colbert Busch is the eighth of 11 children (Stephen Colbert is the youngest). In 1974, when she was 19, her dad and two of her brothers died in a plane crash, and she left school to move back to Charleston. Several years later, Colbert Busch got a divorce, and went back to school. Her campaign site says, "Suddenly a single mom with three children to support, Elizabeth realized she needed to enhance her academic credentials to ensure a career with as much economic opportunity and challenge as possible." This seems to translate to: No humanities majors. She graduated from the College of Charleston with a concentration in Supply Chain and Logistics. Her career was focused on maritime trade and wind energy. Right now she works as the Director of Business Development at Clemson University’s Restoration Institute at the former Naval Shipyard and sits on the Brookings Institute’s Advisory Council on Exports and the World Trade Center Charleston at the Metro Chamber of Commerce. Her campaign site says she supports investment in infrastructure and alternative energy because of her business experience.

Jokes: The question we all want to know is: Is Elizabeth Colbert Busch as funny as her brother? The answer is no. Or at least, if she's funny, she's keeping that side of her personality private. Her campaign is still a little DIY. In a video thanking supporters, for example, she sits on a couch, and you can hear her dogs barking in the background. She's a decent public speaker, but she needs more practice on TV.

Personality: Colbert Busch is campaigning with a sort of sensible mom persona. Her brother pitches her as a not crazy person, which he contrasts with the rest of Congress. "They're tired of crazy. How about just a sane intelligent businesswoman," the Colbert Report host told Patch.com. "She has  the skills and talent to offer people in public office, and I'm professionally ridiculous." On MSNBC Wednesday, Colbert Busch said she's running for office "to stop this extreme behavior and dysfunctional behavior in Washington D.C."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.