CHARLESTON, S.C. — Former Gov. Mark Sanford will likely face former Charleston County councilman Curtis Bostic in a GOP runoff for an open congressional seat, after state Sen. Larry Grooms conceded second place Wednesday to Bostic.
Grooms conceded in the crowded GOP primary in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District even though a recount of the votes, required by state law, will be held later this week.
In unofficial returns Tuesday, Bostic edged out Grooms for second place by 493 votes. Sanford was the top vote-getter among Republicans.
“The margin is too big to recover from, but state law will still govern the mandatory recount,” Grooms said Wednesday. “It’s highly, highly unlikely that any errors could overturn a 400-vote margin.”
Grooms said he sent congratulatory messages late Tuesday to both Bostic and Sanford, who apparently now advance to the April 2 GOP runoff.
Sanford, waging a political comeback after his career was sidelined by his revelation of an extramarital affair four years ago, was more than 12,000 votes ahead of Bostic out of more than 53,000 cast.
“The two top vote-getters will go on and one of them will be the Republican nominee going against a very formidable Democrat,” Grooms said.
The Democratic nominee is Elizabeth Colbert Bush, the sister of political satirist Stephen Colbert. She swamped perennial candidate Ben Frasier Tuesday.
Sixteen candidates vied in the GOP primary, including Teddy Turner, the son of media mogul Ted Turner, who finished fourth. The House seat became vacant when Gov. Nikki Haley appointed then-U.S. Rep. Tim Scott to the U.S. Senate, after Republican Jim DeMint resigned to head a think tank.
Grooms could write the State Election Commission and ask that the recount, to be held on Friday, be waived.
“I’m not. I’m going to let state law govern this. If there was a voting machine that was down – if this margin grows or is lessened – I think the voters have a right to know what the actual vote total was,” he said.
Grooms, who has served in the state Senate since 1997, said losing by such a close margin “is absolutely tough. There is a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on but it really doesn’t matter.”
Grooms said he has spent his career trying to unite conservatives to get legislation passed and get candidates elected.
“I regret I wasn’t able to unite conservatives with my election,” he said, adding it was a tough challenge in a large field.
“By a voting margin of less than 1 percent, my plans to represent South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District ended last night,” he wrote in a post on his Facebook page Wednesday. “I regret that we fell a few votes shy of our plan to be in a runoff election. I had hoped for a better ending to this wild ride but God had different plans in mind.”
The special general election is May 7.
Last fall, Mitt Romney won the conservative district by 18 percentage points, although he beat President Obama by 10 percentage points statewide.
The district reaches from the sea islands with million-dollar oceanfront homes northeast of Charleston to southwest along the coast to the gated communities of Hilton Head Island, with its many Yankee transplants. When Sanford ran in the 1990s, the district reached into more conservative Horry County, but that area has been split and is now part of another district.