Sanford headed for S.C. House runoff; Colbert's sister wins Dem nod
Updated 1:26 p.m. ET
Disgraced former Gov. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., who resigned in 2009 after admitting to an extramarital affair, completed his first step back into the political arena on Tuesday, finishing first in a Republican primary for South Carolina's first congressional district but failing to clear the 50 percent threshold that would eliminate the need for a runoff in the primary. At last count, Sanford earned just shy of 37 percent of ballots cast.
His runoff opponent will be former Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic, a favorite of social conservatives in the district.
Bostic was locked in a tight battle for second place with state Sen. Larry Grooms, leading Grooms 13.3 percent to 12.4 percent, a margin that would trigger a recount. However, Grooms conceded this morning setting up the Sanford vs. Bostic runoff on April 2.
Teddy Turner, son of media mogul Ted Turner, finished a disappointing fourth place, with under 8 percent of the vote.
The quick settlement of the second-place finish is surely welcome news for Bostic, as he can more quickly turn his sights on Sanford. Adequately financed, Bostic might be able to coalesce the 1st district's Republican voters who failed to register support for Sanford yesterday.
Still, the fact that Sanford nearly tripled the vote output of Bostic and Grooms probably suggests he is the favorite in the runoff. The question now is what to read into Sanford's showing: is it a first-place vote that gives him momentum into the runoff, or is there a sign of trouble in the fact that 63.1 percent of the Republican voters rejected him, even against far less known and financed opponents, which is likely at least partly a remnant of his controversial resignation as governor, following disclosure of an extra-marital affair. Sanford failed to win a majority of the 53,657 votes cast in the election.
In his campaign ads and on the stump, Sanford urged voters to remember that everyone makes mistakes, framing himself as an imperfect man but a fierce protector of taxpayers' money.
The primary runoff is scheduled for April 2, and the special election will be held on May 7.
- Mark Sanford seeks first step in resurrecting his political career
- In first campaign ad, Mark Sanford acknowledges "mistakes"
If Sanford manages to win the runoff and secure the GOP nod, he will face Elizabeth Colbert-Busch in the general election. Colbert-Busch, who easily nabbed the Democratic vote on Tuesday, earning over 95 percent of votes cast, is the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert and the director of business development at a Clemson University institute.
This is a district where President Obama won 40.8 percent of the vote last November, almost four percent below his state-wide percentage. That statistic seems to indicate that Colbert's chances in the special election are far from promising. If Sanford emerges as the eventual Republican nominee, perhaps Colbert can form a coalition of anti-Sanford voters. Fifty-five percent of the registered voters are women, and that may help Colbert-Busch against Sanford, if he wins the Republican runoff.
The special election was triggered by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley's decision to appoint the previous representative from South Carolina's first district, then-Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jim DeMint when DeMint left in December to head the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. In a curious twist, if Sanford eventually wins the special election and heads to Congress, it will be his second stint representing the district in Washington - he previously represented the district between 1995 and 2001, making his electoral quest this year a return to form in more ways than one.
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