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.
So their Christian enough to forgive a man who lied to them and cheated on his wife, but they'll spread lies about other people in the race? Nice.
So, Word Press (whatever that is) didn't want me to post this twice?!
A race? Not really. This is about virtues and not party, CNN. Yes, Stephen Colbert's sister is running. No, she is not an entertainer like her brother. She cares about the state she grew up in. She has a solid platform that takes the concerns of SC voters into account. There's a good chance she could win and benefit the state of South Carolina.
That about sums up the state of SC. I know Sanford personally. Dumb as a box of hammers and way less interesting
' "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.'
... makes it seem as though they were the only ones there. Lol. "And the crowd roared, "We're ready, Dad"
Well, I guess if god forgave him for lying to his constituents, that makes everything alright. LOL
Only the reps ask for a "Second chance" and the sheep gives it to them.
A dem could had done the same as Sanford, and reps will never let it go (Pres Clinton for example). Hope Colberts sister wins :)
What is more pathetic; feigning devotion to Christian forgiveness to win an election, or falling for it?
According to the GOP, extramarital affairs and lying to constituents are two things that are contemptible and which disqualify a person for public office – unless the person committing adultery and lying to constituents happens to be Republican.
That Sanford was even on the ballot is a disgrace, but what can you say for voters who cast their ballots for him after he has so clearly proven to be unbelievable and untrustworthy? I guess it says quite a lot about Republican voters in South Carolina. Apparently, they are not the sharpest crayons in the box.
Sure his valleys did made him learn some lessons. If he get's elected he will be the first to try ban gay marriage and invoke family values! Those Republicans make me puke!! I really hope Colbert is winning. I am so tired of those bigots trying to tell us how to live our lives. The Republicans should crawl under a rock and stay there for good.....never to be seen and heard again....
What? The Appalachian Trail isn't in Argentina?
If John Edwards want back lnto politics all he needs to do is switch to the GOP.
"Sanford maintains he learned some important life lessons after wondering off-trail.".. Would that be the Appalachian Trail he was supposedly hiking when he was laying up with his Mistress? What a loser. It's amazing that the "Bible Belt," constituency continues to fall for sinners like this guy and womanizer Newt Gingrich.
Sanford: You just can't beat Republican fmily values!
I think the runoff should take place on the Appalachian Trails. :D
I wonder how the former Mrs. Sanford feels about her four sons supporting her ex's new political aspirations?
More rich, clueless people, to fill the seats in Congress, and be totally out of touch with the people they supposedly represent!
SC. The new moronic state (actually it's been on the list for years). So much for that fake christianity and family values crap the repugs dish out at every turh.
............South Carolina............you DESERVE THIS LIAR, as YOUR representative.............
Yeah..he learned you can fool the people all of the time...what a bunch of Yahoos who support this pond scum..just proves that southerner GOP is completely devoid of any brains and logic..total hypocrites one and all...
Won't it be hard for him to vote from Argentina?
Go Colbert! Does South Carolina always elect white, far right, male candidates? We'll see.
Republican vs democrate a pipe thorn an angle is running against each other, the snake is the republican an the democrate is the angle. stanford might lose against busch that last almost close to the bush's name them devils.
The Colbert bump strikes again!