GOP taps Sanford in primary runoff for 1st District House seat

Associated PressApril 2, 2013 

— Former Gov. Mark Sanford on Tuesday cleared another hurdle in his bid for a political comeback, defeating a former Charleston County Council member to win the GOP nomination for a vacant U.S. House seat.

“It’s been a very long journey. And in that journey, I am humbled to find ourselves where we find ourselves tonight,” said Sanford, whose political career was derailed four years ago, when, as sitting governor, he disappeared from the state only to return to acknowledge an affair with an Argentine woman.

That woman, Maria Belen Chapur, and Sanford are now engaged. She appeared at Sanford’s side during his victory speech, smiling and applauding the former governor, who thanked her for being long-suffering while he was campaigning. She did not address the crowd.

“I want to thank my God,” Sanford said. “I used to cringe when somebody would say, ‘I want to thank my God,’ because at that point, I would think, ‘This is getting uncomfortable.’ But once you really receive God’s grace and (have) seen it reflected in others, you stop and acknowledge that grace and the difference he has made in my life and in so many lives across this state and across this nation.”

With all precincts reporting, Sanford had about 57 percent of the vote in the 1st District to 43 percent for Curtis Bostic. The candidates were vying in the GOP runoff after they finished as the top two vote-getters in a 16-way GOP primary last month. Sanford will face Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, and Green Party candidate Eugene Platt in a May special election.

Colbert Busch released a statement late Tuesday saying, “I look forward to a vigorous campaign that focuses on creating jobs, balancing our country’s budget and choosing an independent-minded leader who shares the values of the great people of South Carolina.”

This has been Sanford’s first campaign since he revealed the affair.

Sanford was a rising Republican star before he vanished from South Carolina for five days in 2009. Reporters were told he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he later tearfully acknowledged at a news conference that he was visiting Chapur. He later called her his soul mate, and the two were engaged earlier this year.

After the revelation of the affair, Sanford’s wife, Jenny, divorced him and wrote a book. Before leaving office as governor, Mark Sanford avoided impeachment but was censured by the Legislature.

The opening for Sanford came after U.S. Rep. Tim Scott was appointed to fill the remaining two years of U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint’s seat. DeMint resigned to head a conservative think tank.

Mark Sanford knows the 1st District well. Elected to the seat in 1994, he served three terms before voters elected him governor in 2002.

Jenny Sanford considered running to represent the Republican-leaning congressional district along the state’s southern coast but ultimately took a pass.

Bostic did not vote in the runoff Tuesday because he couldn’t. His residence near Ravenel, is in the 6th Congressional District, represented by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, about 1,500 yards from the 1st District line. Bostic’s law office, other property, church and children’s schools are in the district. Under federal law, to run for the U.S. House, one only must be a resident of the state in which the district is located.

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