It was a tale of two debate strategies Monday night in South Carolina.

A lively Elizabeth Colbert Busch struck early and often against Mark Sanford's record in Congress and as governor while Sanford hit back with consistent attempts to tie his opponent to Democratic congressional leaders in the only debate in South Carolina's special election campaign.

About 25 minutes in, Colbert Busch raised Sanford's widely publicized 2009 disappearance as governor in a discussion about fiscal matters.

"When we talk about fiscal spending, and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn't mean you take that money we saved and leave the country for a personal purpose," Colbert Busch said, implicitly referring to his trip to Argentina to visit his then-mistress and now fiancee.

"I couldn't hear what she said," Sanford replied.

"Answer the question," Colbert Busch responded sternly, prompting Sanford to return to a discussion about sequestration.

Law enforcement officials concluded that Sanford did not improperly use state money to pay for trips to New York and South America to see his Argentinian mistress.

In another heated exchange, Sanford slammed Colbert Busch for once donating to his gubernatorial campaign. "I would just humbly suggest on that one, that if it was not simply a political statement at this moment, I don't think you would have written me a $500 check after I left the United States Congress as I began to run for governor," he said, responding to Colbert's Busch criticism of his congressional record. Sanford represented the 1st district for six years before running for governor in 2002.