Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford was the top vote-getter in a Republican U.S. House primary, the first test of his political comeback bid after acknowledging an extramarital affair four years ago.
Sanford fell short yesterday of winning more than 50 percent of the vote, meaning he will face the second-place finisher in the 16-candidate Republican field, in a runoff primary on April 2.
The winner will face Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, an older sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, in the May 7 special election to fill the seat that Republican Tim Scott vacated when he was appointed to the U.S. Senate.
Colbert Busch, a business development official with Clemson University, had 96 percent of the vote with 100 percent of precincts reporting to win the Democratic primary against Ben Frasier, according to the Associated Press.
In the Republican race, Sanford had 37 percent of the vote with 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to the AP tally. Curtis Bostic, a former county council member, was in second place with 13.3 percent, and Larry Grooms, a state senator, was in third with 12.4 percent.
Other Republican contenders included Teddy Turner IV, a son of billionaire media executive Ted Turner who had 7.9 percent of the vote.
Sanford, 52, is seeking a return to political life more than two years after leaving the governorship he held from 2003 to 2011. He acknowledged an extramarital affair in 2009, visiting Maria Belen Chapur in Argentina without informing his staff and security detail of his whereabouts. Sanford, who was formally censured by South Carolina’s House of Representatives, rejected calls to resign and served out his second term.
He and his wife, Jenny Sanford, divorced in 2010. In 2012, he announced his engagement to Chapur.
Sanford served in the House from 1995 to 2001, representing essentially the same district he’s now seeking.
South Carolina’s 1st District includes parts of five counties in and around Charleston and tilts Republican. Its voters backed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney with about 58 percent of the vote in last November’s election.
Scott, 47, was named by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to fill the Senate seat that Republican Jim DeMint gave up to become head of the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based small-government policy group. Scott, who first won his House seat in 2010, was sworn into Senate in early January.