MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) — The race for a vacant South Carolina congressional seat has turned into the big-name contest that political junkies were hoping for.
Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican trying to make a comeback after his political career was derailed by his admission of an extramarital affair, faces Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of political satirist Stephen Colbert, in a May 7 special election.
Sanford defeated former Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic in the GOP primary runoff Tuesday, clearing another hurdle in his quest for political redemption. He finished first last month in a 16-candidate field in the primary in the state’s 1st Congressional District, which runs northeast along the coast from Hilton Head Island through Charleston and to the Georgetown County line.
Colbert Busch — who once worked in Washington as an intern for then-U.S. Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, D-S.C. — has had a lifelong dream of running for public office. The businesswoman has said jobs is a top priority for her campaign. Colbert Busch has worked in the shipping industry for years and is now on a leave of absence from her position as the director of business development for Clemson University’s Wind Turbine Drive Testing Facility.
Last month, she easily defeated perennial candidate Ben Frasier to win the Democratic nomination in the Republican-leaning district.
“We need a voice in Washington who stands up for South Carolina solutions – not either political party. And my business experience will get the job done,” Colbert Busch said in a statement after Sanford won.
Sanford on Tuesday collected about 57 percent of the vote in defeating Bostic.
“It’s been a very long journey. And in that journey I am humbled to find ourselves where we find ourselves tonight,” the 52-year-old Sanford said.
In 2009, Sanford, in his second term as governor, was a rising Republican political star before he vanished from South Carolina for five days. Reporters were told he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he later tearfully acknowledged he had been visiting Maria Belen Chapur, which he told everyone at a news conference announcing an extramarital affair. He later called her his soul mate.
Before leaving office as governor, Sanford avoided impeachment but was censured by the Legislature over state travel expenses he used for the affair. He also had to pay more than $70,000 in ethics fines — still the largest in state history — after Associated Press investigations raised questions about his use of state, private and commercial aircraft.