Republican voters in the First Congressional District appear to believe in second chances after handing Mark Sanford -- whose political career seemed over following an extramarital affair -- a resounding victory in Tuesday's GOP runoff.
The two-term former governor and three-term former congressman captured a whopping 57 percent of the vote to rival Curtis Bostic's 43 percent, thanks, in part, to a Sanford landslide in four of the five counties that comprise the district. The Charleston Republican celebrated his victory in Mt. Pleasant with his girlfriend-now-fiancee Maria Belen Chapur, his sons and supporters by his side.
"There's an amazing reservoir of human grace out there. Until you've experienced it, it's hard to believe," Sanford said Tuesday night. "A lot of people have liked where I've been coming from for a long time on tax and spending issues. As I've traveled the district, that's what I've heard, that I was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool. It's been a really amazing three months."
Bostic, a former Charleston County councilman and favorite among evangelical Christians and social conservatives, ultimately won only Beaufort County with 52 percent of the vote or nearly 500 more votes.
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But it was no match for Sanford's strong name ID, large campaign war chest and ownership of a message that he could best deliver fiscally conservative principles to Washington.
Bostic conceded the race early Tuesday as Sanford's lead became apparent and The Associated Press and other news outlets called the race.
"We congratulate the governor on his victory and his well-run and hard-fought campaign," Bostic said.
On the campaign trail, Bostic threw few punches related to Sanford's revelation of the affair that ended his marriage and presidential ambitions, instead attempting to define the front-runner as a "career politician."
That had little effect on voters like Jean Houston of Sun City who appreciated Sanford's political experience. She cited that experience as proof of his fiscally conservative chops which resonated with weary taxpayers tired of federal deficit spending and bailouts.
"His fiscal policies are what I want," she said. "The government is enabling too many people, and the more you enable them, the more they want."
And as for the affair, Houston expressed the same sentiment as many other voters: "I'm blocking that out because everyone makes mistakes."
A minority of voters saw Sanford's affair as a defining characteristic that made him unfit for a fourth congressional term.
"A man who runs off with another woman is not OK in my book," said voter Lorraine Fetzner of Sun City, who voted for Bostic.
Voting across the five-county district was light, with overall turnout at 10 percent, according to the S.C. State Election Commission.
Sanford now faces Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the May 7 general election.
The district, recently redrawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature, favors a Republican candidate.
But Colbert Busch, already casting herself as a fiscal conservative, is expected to receive financial support from state and national Democrats as well as help from her Comedy Central satirist brother Stephen Colbert.
The brother and sister will co-host two fundraising events this month in Washington and New York.
"Mark Sanford simply has the wrong values for our community," said Colbert Busch's campaign after Sanford was declared the winner. "Whether that's his terms as Governor or the last time he was in Congress, where he opposed commonsense measures like the Violence Against Women Act ... . On issue after issue, Mark Sanford doesn't reflect the values of South Carolina."