Colbert Busch and Sanford advance in South Carolina primaries

Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of TV's Stephen Colbert, trounced her competition in the Democratic primary, while disgraced former Governor Mark Sanford will advance to a Republican runoff against either Curtis Bostic or Larry Grooms, in a statistical tie for second place.

Bruce Smith / AP
Elizabeth Colbert Busch poses outside her campaign headquarters in Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 13. The sister of comedian Stephen Colbert has won the Democratic primary and will face off against her as-yet uncertain Republican opponent on May 7.

Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of TV comedian and political satirist Stephen Colbert, won the Democratic Party nomination on Tuesday in a special primary election for one of South Carolina's seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Official results showed Ms. Colbert Busch winning 96 percent of the vote over rival Ben Frasier with 9,130 votes counted.

"My pledge is to you. You are my only cause. I will fight to improve your lives and the lives of your children," Colbert Busch told her supporters.

The Republican primary was not so clear-cut. Two candidates will advance to a runoff election for the Republican nomination: Mark Sanford and either Curtis Bostic or Larry Grooms — their numbers are close enough to trigger an automatic recount.

For the former South Carolina governor, advancing to the recount marks a big step toward reviving a political career that was derailed by an extramarital affair while he was governor.

"Are you ready to change things in Washington?" Sanford, flanked by his four sons, asked a boisterous crowd at a restaurant in Charleston's historic district. "I'm incredibly humbled by the outpouring of support we have seen tonight."

With all precincts reporting, unofficial results show Sanford received about 37 percent of the vote in the southern coastal district. It was unclear who he would face in the April 2 GOP runoff.

Former Charleston County councilman Mr. Bostic held a slim lead, less than one percent, over state Sen. Grooms, a margin that will trigger an automatic recount. Teddy Turner, the son of media mogul Ted Turner, trailed Bostic and Grooms.

Tuesday was Sanford's first run for office since a 2009 scandal in which he acknowledged an affair. After disappearing and telling his staff he was out hiking the Appalachian Trail, he returned to the state to reveal that he was in Argentina with a woman he later become engaged to after divorcing his wife, Jenny. She briefly weighed a bid for the congressional seat herself but decided against it.

Mark Sanford, who vied against 15 other Republican candidates on Tuesday, said it was "a treat and a blessing" to be back on the ballot.

The 1st Congressional District seat became vacant last year when Republican Gov. Nikki Haley appointed then-U.S. Rep. Tim Scott to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Republican Jim DeMint, who resigned to head The Heritage Foundation.

For Colbert Busch, the race was the fulfillment of a dream she has had since a young child.

"What an incredible opportunity. God bless America that we can do this," she said earlier Tuesday, adding that if she won, she would have two weeks to concentrate on the campaign while the Republicans in the runoff battle each other. "That is a real advantage."

Sanford represented the district in Congress from 1994 to 2000, before he was elected governor.

"It's a very significant race for me in a lot of different ways," he says. After casting a ballot for himself, Sanford said that life can be a series of course corrections.

"We all hope for a second chance. I believe in a God of second chances," Sanford said. "On a professional level, we have had a couple of months to talk about the issues. In that regard it has been a treat and a blessing."

Sanford, who spent months apologizing to groups around the state after he revealed his affair, said when he announced for his old congressional seat that the apology tour was over. Known for his frugality as both a congressman and governor, he has been spending the campaign talking about getting the nation's fiscal house in order.

With Sanford's campaign war chest and name recognition, Tuesday's race was largely for second place.

Minutes before Sanford voted, state Rep. Chip Limehouse cast his ballot at the same polling place. Limehouse, who spent almost $500,000 on the race, said he was sure Sanford would make the runoff and hoped he would be in second place.

"Purely by name ID, the governor has an advantage going into today. I'm not sure that goes past today," he said.

Before finishing fourth, Turner was optimistic after voting at an armory in nearby Mount Pleasant.

"This race has been exciting all along because we started at zero," said Turner, making his first run for political office. "We have made our way as high as you can go in this race because you're not going to pass Sanford in the primary."

Turnout was low, as expected in a special primary. The general election will be held May 7.

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