Sanford advances to GOP runoff in House race

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford advanced Tuesday to a runoff in the Republican contest for an open congressional seat, taking a step toward reviving a political career that was derailed by an extramarital affair while he was governor.

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Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford addresses supporters in Charleston, S.C., after advancing to the GOP primary runoff in a race for a vacant South Carolina congressional seat.  BRUCE SMITH/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford addresses supporters in Charleston, S.C., after advancing to the GOP primary runoff in a race for a vacant South Carolina congressional seat.

“Are you ready to change things in Washington?” Sanford, flanked by his four sons, asked a boisterous crowd at a restaurant in Charleston’s historic district. “I’m incredibly humbled by the outpouring of support we have seen tonight.”

With all precincts reporting, unofficial results show Sanford received about 37 percent of the vote in the southern coastal district. It was unclear who he would face in the April 2 GOP runoff.

Former Charleston County councilman Curtis Bostic held a slim lead over state Sen. Larry Grooms for second place. But the margin is so narrow, less than one percent, that it will trigger an automatic recount. Teddy Turner, the son of media mogul Ted Turner, trailed Bostic and Grooms.

The eventual Republican candidate will square off in the May 7 general election against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert. She won the Democratic primary for the seat, handily defeating perennial candidate Ben Frasier.

“My pledge is to you. You are my only cause. I will fight to improve your lives and the lives of your children,” Colbert Busch told supporters across town.

Tuesday was Sanford’s first run for office since a 2009 scandal in which he acknowledged an affair. After disappearing and telling his staff he was out hiking the Appalachian Trail, he returned to the state to reveal that he was in Argentina with a woman he later became engaged to after divorcing his wife, Jenny. She briefly weighed a bid for the congressional seat herself but decided against it.

Mark Sanford, who vied against 15 other Republican candidates on Tuesday, said it was “a treat and a blessing” to be back on the ballot.

The 1st Congressional District seat became vacant last year when Republican Gov. Nikki Haley appointed then-U.S. Rep. Tim Scott to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Republican Jim DeMint, who resigned to head The Heritage Foundation.

Wearing a gray windbreaker, Sanford walked alone up the street and up a flight of stairs to the building with the polling place in Charleston’s historic district. He represented the district in Congress from 1994 to 2000, before he was elected governor.

“Casting your vote wasn’t that hard,” he laughed, but then added, “It’s a very significant race for me in a lot of different ways.”

Sanford said after voting that life can be a series of course corrections.

“We all hope for a second chance. I believe in a God of second chances,” Sanford said. “On a professional level, we have had a couple of months to talk about the issues. In that regard it has been a treat and a blessing.”

Sanford, who spent months apologizing to groups around the state after he revealed his affair, said when he announced for his old congressional seat that the apology tour was over. Known for his frugality as both a congressman and governor, he has been spending the campaign talking about getting the nation’s fiscal house in order.

With Sanford’s campaign war chest and name recognition, Tuesday’s race was largely for second place.

Minutes before Sanford voted, state Rep. Chip Limehouse cast his ballot at the same polling place. Limehouse, who spent almost $500,000 on the race, said he was sure Sanford would make the runoff and hoped he would be in second place.

“Purely by name ID, the governor has an advantage going into today. I’m not sure that goes past today,” he said.

Before finishing fourth, Turner was optimistic after voting at an armory in nearby Mount Pleasant.

“This race has been exciting all along because we started at zero,” said Turner, making his first run for political office. “We have made our way as high as you can go in this race because you’re not going to pass Sanford in the primary.”

For Colbert Busch, the race was the fulfillment of a dream she has had since a young child.

“What an incredible opportunity. God bless America that we can do this,” she said earlier Tuesday, adding that if she won, she would have two weeks to concentrate on the campaign while the Republicans in the runoff battle each other. “That is a real advantage.”

Turnout was low, as expected in a special primary.

U.S. House District 1 GOP - Primary results
318 of 318 precincts - 100 percent
r-Mark Sanford 19,812 - 37 percent
Curtis Bostic 7,149 - 13 percent
Larry Grooms 6,656 - 12 percent
Teddy Turner 4,235 - 8 percent
Andy Patrick 3,776 - 7 percent
John Kuhn 3,471 - 6 percent
Chip Limehouse 3,269 - 6 percent
Ray Nash 2,504 - 5 percent
Peter McCoy 865 - 2 percent
Elizabeth Moffly 529 - 1 percent
Tim Larkin 390 - 1 percent
Jonathan Hoffman 358 - 1 percent
Jeff King 211 - 0 percent
Keith Blandford 192 - 0 percent
Shawn Pinkston 154 - 0 percent
Ric Bryant 86 - 0 percent
r-Advances to runoff
U.S. House District 1 Dem - Primary results
318 of 318 precincts - 100 percent
x-Elizabeth Colbert Busch 15,776 - 96 percent
Ben Frasier 679 - 4 percent
– Associated Press
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Young Fred
Young Fred 03/19/13 - 11:04 pm
Sanford was a bright light

Sanford was a bright light that dimmed his own candle.

Regardless, if he champions the kind of common sense government he was known for, I'll support him even though he's out of my district!

There are to few common sense politicians.

mdl1946 03/19/13 - 11:28 pm

Any one that would vote for Mark Sanford is just dumb!

TrukinRanger 03/20/13 - 06:33 am
He needs to go back to the

He needs to go back to the "N.C. Mountains"

Young Fred
Young Fred 03/20/13 - 08:39 am
Well, I guess it depends on

Well, I guess it depends on who he’s running against. To make a blanket statement that “Any one that would vote for Mark Sanford is just dumb!” Well that’s just plain “dumb!”!

BamaMan 03/20/13 - 08:44 am

I guess scruples mean nothing anymore.

allhans 03/20/13 - 09:46 am
I agree with Young Fred. If

I agree with Young Fred. If Sanford can make a difference then support him. What he did was no worse than some politicians that we all know about.

Young Fred
Young Fred 03/20/13 - 10:59 am
BamaMan, Scruples mean just


Scruples mean just about everything! The man could’ve made a difference in this country. I’ll never forget how he let so many down.

That being said, one would be foolish not to compare the man and his views against those he’s running against.

A little dose of common sense goes a long ways.

my.voice 03/20/13 - 12:31 pm
I am disappointed in Mr

I am disappointed in Mr Sanford. This goes to show us common folk that those who have the gold really do make the rules. He not only showed bad judgement, but almost spiraled out of control when it all came out. You made your bed, now sleep in it. You tarnished our state and I don't appreciate it.

Wonder who Jenny's backing.

itsanotherday1 03/20/13 - 06:42 pm
Dittos Young Fred

Sanford may not be one's first choice, but when choosing between him and a Pelosi, the choice is clear. That is usually my dilemma anyway, I wind up voting for the lesser of the evils.

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