April 2nd, 2013
05:00 AM ET
10 years ago

Runoff is second test in shamed governor's political comeback

(CNN) - Call it the next hurdle in Mark Sanford's political redemption tour.

The former South Carolina governor, whose political career was sidetracked thanks to a well-publicized affair, faces a Republican primary run-off for his old congressional seat on Tuesday.

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker']

And Sanford's past infidelity is front and center in the battle for the state's first congressional district, which he represented from 1995 to 2001 before being elected the Palmetto State's governor for two terms.

"Trust is a crucial issue. In fact, it has become a crucial issue in this race," said Curtis Bostic, a former Charleston city council man who is the other GOP candidate in the runoff. Bostic claimed in last Thursday's debate between the two candidates that Sanford was a "compromised candidate" because of his extramarital affair with a woman from Argentina. The affair came to light in 2009, sinking any hopes Sanford had of making a bid for the GOP presidential nomination.

Sanford and his then-wife, Jenny, were divorced in 2010 and Sanford finished his second term as governor in January 2011. He's now engaged to the woman with whom he had the affair.

Sanford, who's touting his fiscal conservative credentials as he campaigns for congress, is also asking the public for a second chance, telling CNN that he was seeking "redemption" by running for office again. He came in first in a 16 candidate primary two weeks ago, but finished with 37% of the vote, far short of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff. But he was far ahead of Bostic, who narrowly edged out state Sen. Larry Grooms to finish second with 13% and will face Sanford in the runoff.

Sanford said his first-place finish was "incredibly humbling."

"The events of 2009 absolutely represent a failure on my part, for which there were and probably always will be consequences," added Sanford. "But that does not mean, because you have had failure in your personal life, that you cannot step back into life again."

But Bostic, who has won the support of some top social conservative leaders, disagrees, arguing that the congressional seat - which has been held by the GOP since 1981 - would become vulnerable if Sanford becomes the Republican nominee.

"A compromised candidate is not what we need. It's just not what we need. We need to secure this seat. It needs to be red," Bostic said, citing surveys that indicated that Democratic candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch is leading Sanford.

But Bostic did not repeat his criticism of Sanford's infidelity at their second debate this past weekend.

Colbert Busch is the Democratic nominee in the race, and is the sister of Stephen Colbert, the satirist and host of "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central. He's campaigned on his sister's behalf, recently telling Jake Tapper, CNN Chief Washington Correspondent and anchor of CNN's "The Lead," that "she's my sister, and I'm willing to, you know, break the jewel of my own creation to try to do something for her."

Colbert Busch, an official with Clemson University's wind turbine drive testing facility, is expected to have an uphill climb in the May 7 general election because the district is heavily Republican. GOP Rep. Tim Scott won re-election to the seat by 27 percentage points in last November's election. But when Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina stepped down from his seat late last year to take over as the head of the conservative Heritage Foundation, GOP Gov. Nikki Haley named Scott to fill the seat, triggering the special election to fill his seat.

Filed under: Mark Sanford • South Carolina
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. zanny

    Voters in South Carolina are way too smart to put Sanford back in office. The lies and misuse of money and the affair behind the lies should be enough. The gall of him to want his ex wife who he humiliated be his campaign manager shows how diluted he is. People do not forget the stunts he pulled and now clings to his religion to clear him.

    April 2, 2013 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  2. Name lynn

    Going into people back ground an pulling out dirty crap, an putting people in front to that the people wants to win what a drag.

    April 2, 2013 05:54 am at 5:54 am |
  3. Marie MD

    "Sidetracked" Is this what the CNN world thinks is the correct word for an adulterer and liar?
    This guy should have moved to Argentina with his mistress. Then again, at least he wasn't trolling for men in an airport bathroom or taking a boy toy to Italy.

    April 2, 2013 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  4. James Bond

    Are we really this stupid, he left his official duties to run off with some other woman, marry her then fool, dont just talk about it

    April 2, 2013 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  5. Bling

    That's what happens when you preach family values, but live like you're a pagan. Sooner or later it catches up to you, and you have to face the truth. Of course, to republicans the truth is a subjective term. Used only if it's beneficial to their cause.

    April 2, 2013 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  6. f ray

    and SC takes 2nd step in proving they have nothing between their ears.

    April 2, 2013 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  7. John

    Is it me or is this the usual GOP conservative two step? They are all high and mighty and moral and everyone should be judged by there actions and no second chances until they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar, then its all forgivness and humble and I've changed and please give me a second chance. Why? You wouldn't give anyone a second chance before you got caught (and I do mean caught, cause if you weren't caught you wouldn't have stopped). Treat others as you want them to treat you, you wouldn't allow 2nd chances, then you don't get one.

    April 2, 2013 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  8. Sadie Boyd

    Really? This man is not compromised by his infidelity to his wife...that is his business. He is compromised because he lied to his state. He has no role in politics.

    April 2, 2013 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    In a way I would hope that Sanford would win this runoff. If only to hear the right wing cheer him on and on. That way win Anthony Weiner returns to politics they can all act like hypocrites as they chastise him for making a comeback.

    A Sanford win should almost hand the election to Colbert-Busch. It remains to be seen how much credibility SC voters will have. Will they hide their shame and vote for Sanford? I would hope that they practice what they preach outside their churches, and leave Sanford in his dog house.

    April 2, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  10. plain&simple

    You can have redemption without re-election! Learn to live with it. Redemption lives when your children accept you ,trust you again and understand that you have been dishonest and have now owned your betrayal to the family. That's the redemption that matters. The rest is ego!

    April 2, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  11. Kevin

    If President Obama had DONE ANY OF THIS....ANY.,....They'd Lose their Minds Like they did When they discovered Tiger Woods Liked Females !~!!~!!
    I Love it how White MEN can Get away with MURDER, Literally ( and they screamed when O.J. Did ) but ANYTHING WE DO is subject to all kinds of Scrutiny.

    April 2, 2013 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  12. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    "A compromised candidate is not what we need. It's just not what we need."
    Is that the phrase for it now? Compromised candidate? Why not just call like it is. Don't bite your tongue. You don't need a lying, abuse of power adulterer as your congressman. See how that easy was.

    April 2, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  13. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    No shame in this man...

    April 2, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  14. Tony Deisla

    I wish Republicans didn't pick him over Bostic, but as a South Carolinian myself, I'd rather have him in office than Colbert.

    April 2, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  15. rla

    sanford –you had your shot now disappear! you are a true example of the saying if you can't make it as a lawyer go into politics

    April 2, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |

    South Carolina will vote against its own self interests and vote Sanford in. You read it here first.

    April 2, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |