Former Gov. Mark Sanford will likely take on Charleston attorney Curtis Bostic in a GOP primary April 2 to represent the 1st Congressional District, according to unofficial race results Tuesday.
Because Bostic and a third candidate, Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, finished with less than 1 percent of votes separating them, an automatic recount has been triggered under state law.
Sanford captured a commanding 37 percent of the vote while Bostic tallied 13.3 percent, according to unofficial results late Tuesday. Grooms took 12.4 percent.
The recount will likely take place Friday, said Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the S.C. State Election Commission, and the runoff contestants announced the same day.
The GOP winner faces Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in a May 7 general election. Colbert Busch, a Charleston businesswoman and sister to comedian Stephen Colbert, slid easily to victory, capturing nearly 96 percent of the vote.
"I can say it's an incredible blessing," Sanford said late Tuesday. "I'm just humbled by the outpouring of support and appreciate things at a whole different level."
Sanford, who has said he would term limit himself but would not give the number of terms when asked Tuesday, is also mum on how he'll take on Bostic -- or Grooms.
"I'm not trying to compete with him or anybody else," Sanford said. "When there were 16 of us (in the GOP race) I wasn't aiming a strategy at him or anyone else. I was just discussing the issues I believe in. And that's where I'll focus on in the next two weeks."
Bostic thanked supporters and prepped for round 2 late Tuesday.
"We got here because of you," he told smiling supporters.
Bostic played the primary game differently, building a grassroots base of churchgoers and homeschoolers while sitting out many of the GOP candidate forums and not airing expensive TV ads. His base knew him because of his longtime pro bono work for area churches and nonprofits along with Christian radio talk shows he has hosted during the past 15 years.
The personal injury attorney had a few arrows slung his way on the campaign trail, including the fact he does not live in the district and for his "yes" votes while on Charleston County Council to grow the county budget.
Bostic lives outside Ravenel in Charleston County which is in Rep. Jim Clyburn's 6th District. The property is about 4,500 feet from the district line that separates the 1st and 6th districts, Bostic told The Island Packet last month.
As polls rolled in Tuesday, Bostic and Grooms battled it out for social conservatives and flip flopped between a second and third place finish behind Sanford.
Grooms did not concede the race Tuesday.
"Larry doesn't want to disenfranchise a voter," said Hogan Gidley, Grooms' spokesman. "This kind of stuff happens in elections all of the time and sometimes you can concede too quickly. Let's make sure all of the votes are counted and the results are official."