Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford won the Republican nomination for a U.S. House seat, clearing the latest hurdle in his political comeback after admitting to an extramarital affair four years ago.
Sanford defeated Curtis Bostic, a former county councilman, and will face Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, an older sister of political satirist Stephen Colbert, in a May 7 special election in South Carolina’s 1st District.
The Republican-leaning district comprises much of South Carolina’s Atlantic Coast, taking in Hilton Head and part of Charleston, the state’s second-biggest city. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, carried the district with 58 percent of the vote in November to 40 percent for President Barack Obama, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Still, polls have shown a competitive contest between Sanford and Colbert Busch.
Sanford “will campaign tirelessly to grow South Carolina jobs and work to get our nation’s massive spending problem under control,” Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, the chairman of the House Republican campaign organization, said in a statement released yesterday.
District voters “need a voice in Washington who stands up for South Carolina solutions -- not either political party,” Colbert Busch said yesterday in a statement. Sanford “simply has the wrong values for our community,” she said.
Colbert Busch, 58, is playing down her party affiliation, pressing themes of job creation and deficit reduction while touting her background as a business-development and shipping executive and promising to work with Republicans.
“If you look at many of her positions on economic issues, she sounds almost Republican,” Scott Buchanan, who teaches politics and government at The Citadel, a military school in Charleston, said last week.
Sanford defeated Bostic, 57 percent to 43 percent, in yesterday’s voting with 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press.
The Republican runoff was required after none of the 16 original candidates won a majority in a March 19 primary. Sanford led with about 37 percent, while Bostic had about 13 percent, placing second.
Sanford, 52, is seeking to overcome the political damage he suffered when he acknowledged as governor in 2009 an affair with an Argentine woman he visited outside the country after telling staff members he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Sanford is now engaged to the woman, Maria Belen Chapur, who appeared at his victory party yesterday.
Sanford’s behavior drew a formal rebuke from the Republican-led state legislature and demands for his resignation. He finished his second term as his marriage ended.
In one of his recent television advertisements, Sanford said he’s “experienced how none of us go through life without mistakes -- but in their wake we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances, and be the better for it.” He also has described himself as a “wounded warrior” who learned and grew from his personal mistakes.
Sanford represented much of the current district in Congress from 1995 to 2001. He won the governor’s office in 2002, and after his re-election in 2006 he was seen as a potential national figure within his party. His affair ended such speculation.
In his current campaign, Sanford has focused on curbing government spending and other fiscal issues in a district that’s the state’s wealthiest. It has a median household income of $56,079 compared to $42,367 statewide, according to 2011 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Bostic, 49, sought support from evangelical Christian voters as he portrayed Sanford as a “compromised candidate” whose tarnished image would cost the party control of the seat.
Colbert Busch won the Democratic nomination on March 19 and has received fundraising help from her comedian brother, the anchor of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.”
A March 22-24 poll by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning company, showed Colbert Busch with 47 percent and Sanford with 45 percent in a special election match-up. Colbert Busch and Bostic were tied, each with 43 percent. The automated telephone survey of 1,175 likely voters had an error margin of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
The special election winner will succeed Republican Tim Scott, whose resigned in January to accept an appointment to the U.S. Senate. Next month’s election will fill one of three vacant seats in the House of Representatives, where Republicans currently hold 232 seats compared with 200 for Democrats.