March 19th, 2013
09:03 PM ET
5 years ago

Sanford in GOP runoff, Colbert Busch wins Dem nomination

Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) - Former Gov. Mark Sanford finished first in Tuesday's crowded Republican primary for the U.S. House special election in South Carolina, CNN projects. However, Sanford fell well short of the 50% margin needed to avoid a runoff.

The former governor will compete against Curtis Bostic, a former Charleston councilman, in a runoff election in two weeks. The third place finisher, state Sen. Larry Grooms, conceded the race Wednesday.

"Are you guys ready to change things in Washington, D.C.?" Sanford said to supporters at his campaign headquarters in Charleston on Tuesday night. All four of his sons attended the party.

"What we've earned is the honor of being on the playing field here for the next two weeks," he added, asking the crowd to redouble their campaign efforts. "Indeed, we are at that tipping point."

On the Democratic side, CNN projects Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, won the nomination.

"This is absolutely incredible. What a wonderful night," she told supporters at a victory party in Charleston, South Carolina. "It's the start of a new beginning, right?"

The longtime area businesswoman was considered the favorite on the Democratic side over opponent Ben Frasier. She'll compete against the Republican nominee in the general election in May.

The winner of the special election will fill the U.S. House seat vacated by now-Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican appointed to fill the Senate spot that Jim DeMint left last month.

"I am ready to go to Washington, D.C. to be your voice, so we're going to do that," Colbert Busch said.

The Republican primary ballot featured 16 candidates, including Sanford and Teddy Turner, son of CNN founder Ted Turner.

Sanford's re-entry into politics comes after an extramarital affair derailed his marriage and political career. As governor, he infamously told the public in 2009 he was hiking the Appalachian Trail while he was actually traveling to Argentina to carry on the affair.

He and his then-wife, Jenny, were divorced in 2010 and Sanford finished his second term in January 2011.

Sanford is asking the public for a second chance, and in his own informal poll of the voters, he said he's finding an openness to forgive, if not forget.

In an interview Tuesday night, Sanford said his first-place finish was "incredibly humbling."

"There's this amazing reservoir of human grace out there that's a reflection of God's grace, and I've seen it first hand," he said, adding that he looks forward to a "spirited contest" during the runoff.

Sanford's colorful not so distant past was far from the only distraction in the race.

Turner had family ties, deep pockets and a sudden rise in some internal polling. All that made him a big target.

Opponents filled mailboxes with attack ads on Turner, with some tying the candidate to one of his father's ex-wives, Jane Fonda.

"You know it's absolutely amazing how dirty the game is, how expensive the game is. It just doesn't make sense," Turner said.

John Avlon, a CNN political contributor whose family has lived in South Carolina for decades, said Sanford's honesty about his imperfect personal life has made him more relatable to voters.

"There is an affection for a guy who admits he's a sinner and asks for forgiveness, especially down here," Avlon said.

Despite his transgressions, the former governor insists he is worthy of the public trust. Sanford maintains he learned some important life lessons after wondering off-trail.

"Oddly enough, I think you learn from the valleys of life rather than the peaks," Sanford said.

CNN's Ashley Killough and Keating Holland contributed to this report.

Filed under: House • Mark Sanford • South Carolina
soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. PJ

    Forgiveness is one thing, South Carolina rewarding this guy is another.
    I don't want to hear another word from them about "family values", or anything else. They just spit in the face of
    their former First Lady, and are now hoping to send her "replacement", aka mistress, to Washington.
    Way to go, dunceheads.

    March 19, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  2. JJ

    Oh great another talking head that knows nothing..............

    March 19, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  3. Gambi

    Elizabeth Colbert Busch what a breath of fresh air in South Carolina. If she wins the election for Congress we will know there is a God and change is coming. 1st the Pope and now a strong Democrat to represent South Carolina. Will miracles ever cease?

    March 19, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  4. Jeb

    Stanford has made a good life for himself operating on the belief that his supporters aren't very intelligent. It looks like it continues to pay off for him.

    March 19, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  5. devin

    Does Sanford have no shame? Well, I guess that answer is obvious.

    March 19, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  6. motorfirebox

    "You know it's absolutely amazing how dirty the game is, how expensive the game is. It just doesn't make sense," Turner said.

    Yeah, it's almost like somebody washed away all reasonable limits on campaign contributions.

    March 19, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  7. Joshua Farmer

    I would vote for Sanford because he is ADMITTING his guilt and hoping to work to atone for it...much like Clinton rather than just disappearing.

    March 19, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  8. Steve

    First you told us that you were taking a hike, now it's time for us to tell you to take a hike.

    Don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you Sanford. You stink.

    March 19, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  9. Kurt

    God I hope she wins. Any relative of Stephen's has got to cool. And Sanford is detestable.

    March 19, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  10. ThemovieFan

    Family values?

    March 19, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  11. The Thinker1958

    if Elizabeth Colbert is half smart as Stephen Colbert, that is plenty. I hope people don't elect a Republican. Is way to expensive to have them in power. They give you 100 in tax cuts and charge you 200 in additional fees to pay for stuff any city needs.

    March 19, 2013 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  12. Zon

    Only in South Carolina.

    March 19, 2013 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  13. Lionel

    South Carolina, please do not send Sanford to Congress. There is already gridlock there.

    Once a liar and cheater, always a liar and cheater.

    March 19, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  14. Justin

    No adulterers in office. Vote for Colbert Busch! Hopefully she'll get a lot of help from her brother, Stephen Colbert

    March 19, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  15. Thomas

    "Are you guys ready to change things in Washington, D.C.?" Sanford said to supporters at his campaign headquarters in Charleston on Tuesday night. All four of his sons attended the party.

    It's ok to lie , to cheat , it's politics . Four sons , what a roll model.
    Stanford was charged with an ethics fine for misuse of taxpayer funds.
    Are you guys ready to change things in Washington , you have to be kidding me .

    March 19, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  16. Jackie

    The Love Gove has the values and morals South Carolina citizens love. Mrak looked for a long time for a soulmate while married with children. Mark courted Maria from 2001 on the taxpayers money while lying to his family. Well it took nine years and he was hooked so much he left his job without notice to meet his soulmate. Exposed Mark expressed his deep love for his soulmate while his wife and kids watched on TV. Mark left dodging an Impeachment and repaying the taxpayers money. Well now Mark and Maria were engaged in 2012 as to keep Maria in her life style he is now running for Senate. So Mark knows he shows what South Carolina is and he thinks he can win.

    March 19, 2013 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  17. spthatcher

    Will he be hiking through the Appalachian campaign trail?

    March 19, 2013 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  18. Todd in DC

    If SC votes in Sanford, then they are a bunch of big dummies.

    March 19, 2013 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  19. don

    i hope she is at least half as funny as her brother

    March 19, 2013 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  20. Roy

    And so many people wonder why states like South Carolina and Mississippi are so far behind the rest of the world. Because if the state of South Carolina only qualfied candidate for the RePubs is Sandford, they have serious PROBLEMS!!!

    March 19, 2013 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  21. jtsilver2th

    Wow what an entertainment package!
    This will be a scream!
    Hope Steven gets the idea-

    March 19, 2013 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  22. peridot2

    Huzzah for Elizabeth Colbert Busch! Here's hoping she wins SC!

    March 19, 2013 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  23. komododr

    The district that Sanford is running for election must be the tea party idiots. Why do you want to elect someone whom you know is a BIG LIAR, duh!

    March 19, 2013 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  24. L Rivera

    You are and will always be an adulterer. You lied to those who did trust in you. God will judge you for what you have done for reality's sake.

    March 19, 2013 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  25. patiat

    If those people re-elect Sanford to ANYTHING, they deserve nothing but failure, mockery and abandonment.

    March 19, 2013 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
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