MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. — Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford on Tuesday cleared another hurdle in his bid for political redemption, defeating a former Charleston County council member to win the GOP nomination for the U.S. House seat he held for three terms.
“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 extramarital affair with an Argentine woman.
That woman, María Belén 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.
With all of the precincts reporting Sanford had about 57 percent of the vote in the 1st District to 43 percent for Curtis Bostic, the former county council member. 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, the 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.”
Sanford, a former three-term congressman and two-term governor, said earlier Tuesday that the runoff would give a good indication whether voters have moved past his personal indiscretions.
“I’m both humbled and grateful for the response of the voters here tonight,” he said later.
Sanford was a rising Republican political star before he vanished from South Carolina for five days in 2009. Reporters were told he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but the then-married governor later tearfully acknowledged he was visiting María Belén Chapur, which he told everyone at a news conference announcing his affair. He later called her his soul mate and the two were engaged earlier last year.
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 The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
Mark Sanford knows the 1st District well. Elected to the seat in 1994 — Jenny Sanford managed his first campaign and was a close adviser for most of his career — he served three terms before voters elected him governor in 2002.