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Sanford Heading to Congress, Pulls Off South Carolina Comeback

Image: Sanford Heading to Congress, Pulls Off South Carolina Comeback

Tuesday, 07 May 2013 08:59 PM

By Newsmax Wires

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Republican former Governor Mark Sanford made a stunning political comeback on Tuesday, rebounding from a sex scandal to beat Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in a personality-driven election for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives that put a national spotlight on South Carolina.

Sanford regained the First Congressional District seat he held from 1995 to 2001 before serving two terms as governor, the second of which was marred when he tried to hide an affair by saying falsely that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

He earned 54 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Colbert Busch, a businesswoman and first-time candidate whose brother is television satirist Stephen Colbert.

The district has not elected a Democrat in three decades.

"I've talked a lot about grace over the course of this campaign. I get it in a way that I never have before," Sanford told cheering supporters in Mount Pleasant.

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"I just want to acknowledge a God not just of second chances, but third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth chances," he said.

The election, which garnered broad attention thanks to the colorful candidates, was held to fill the seat vacated by Republican Tim Scott when he was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Governor Nikki Haley in December.

Sanford, 52, had trailed Colbert Busch by 9 points two weeks ago in a poll taken soon after revelations that his ex-wife had accused him of trespassing at her home. Sanford said he went there to watch the football Super Bowl with one of their four sons.

Sanford was also the subject of attack ads that accused him of deserting the state in 2009 when the then-married governor tried to hide a six-day visit with his mistress in Argentina by saying he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

He paid more than $70,000 in fines for ethics violations that included using public money for personal travel to Argentina. He was subsequently divorced and is now engaged to the other woman, Maria Belen Chapur, who attended his victory party.

No Democrat has represented the district since the early 1980s. The district includes the city of Charleston and parts of four rural counties and stretches south along the coast to wealthy Hilton Head Island.

Sanford, who turns 53 later this month, has never lost a race in three runs for Congress and two for governor. And he said before the votes were counted Tuesday that if he lost this race, he wouldn't run for office again.

"I think you can go back in and you can ask for a second chance in a political sense once," he said Tuesday after voting in the special election.

Supporters and analysts credited Colbert Busch, 58, with running a good race that remained close until the end.

"Wow, we gave it a heck of a fight, didn't we?" a smiling Colbert Busch told her supporters at a hotel in Charleston.

Sanford already has survived a 16-way GOP primary with several sitting state lawmakers and Teddy Turner, the son of media magnate Ted Turner. He also won the primary runoff. Colbert Busch defeated perennial candidate Ben Frasier with 96 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary.

Colbert Busch picked up the endorsement of The Post and Courier over the weekend. The Charleston newspaper called her "a welcome tonic" for those who suffer from "Sanford Fatigue" — a malady caused by overexposure to all of the cringe-worthy details of his 2009 disgrace as governor, his ongoing efforts for redemption via the political process, his resurgent personal problems, etc."

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Sanford, despite losing national GOP support, picked up the endorsement of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a tea party favorite who is well-known in the district.

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