Sanford Tops Colbert’s Sister to Pull Off Comeback

Republican Mark Sanford won a special election for a U.S. House seat in South Carolina, staging a political comeback after admitting to an extramarital affair four years ago while he served as the state’s governor.

Sanford defeated Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a business development official and an older sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, for an open seat in the Republican-leaning 1st District in and around Charleston.

Sanford had 54 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Colbert Busch, with 98 percent of precincts reporting in today’s election, according to the Associated Press tally.

Republican Tim Scott resigned the seat in January to become a U.S. senator.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried the district by 18 percentage points in last November’s election. Sanford, 52, focused much of his campaign on tying Colbert Busch, 58, to national Democratic figures including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Sanford was serving his second term as governor when he rejected calls in 2009 to resign after acknowledging an affair with an Argentine woman whom he visited after telling staff members he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. He was censured by the Republican-led state legislature and paid ethics fines, though he resisted calls from members of his own party and others to resign, finishing his term in January 2011.

The affair ended Sanford’s marriage, and he’s now engaged to the Argentine woman, Maria Belen Chapur.

Sanford previously served in the House from 1995 to 2001.

The House will have 233 Republicans and 201 Democrats when Sanford is sworn in. There’s one vacancy in a Republican-leaning district in Missouri.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net

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