American politics can offer some unusual career trajectories, but by any measure, South Carolina Republican Mark Sanford is unique.
After serving three unremarkable terms in Congress, Sanford was elected governor twice, and in 2008, was widely considered a top contender for his party’s vice presidential nomination. By early 2009, the governor appeared to be laying the groundwork for a likely presidential campaign.
Those plans were scrapped by June 2009, when Sanford, a “family-values conservative,” confessed to having an extra-marital affair with an Argentinian woman. The governor had lied about his activities, misused public funds, violated state ethics guidelines, and was censured by state lawmakers from his own party.
That was then; this is now.
A disgraced ex-governor and the sister of a popular comedian came out victorious on Tuesday in South Carolina’s special congressional primary, possibly setting the stage for an uncommonly tight race for what is normally a Republican safe seat.
Republicans in South Carolina’s 1st congressional district showed forgiveness by supporting Mark Sanford after a campaign focused as much on the former governor’s personal transgressions as his record. Sanford came out on top of the crowded 16-candidate Republican primary, according to the Associated Press.
Sanford won a plurality of Republican votes, and will now compete in an April 2 primary runoff, though it’s still not clear who his opponent will be. If the former governor prevails, as now seems likely, he’ll face Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who cruised to an easy win in the Democratic race, in the May 7 general special election.
The seat, formerly held by Tim Scott before his appointment to the U.S. Senate, is generally considered a safe one for Republicans – President Obama lost this district by 18 points last year – but Colbert Busch has proven to be a strong candidate and Sanford’s scandal-plagued past has made the contest more competitive than expected.
Sanford will, however, enjoy a considerable financial advantage, thanks to the generous support of wealthy far-right benefactors like David Koch and Foster Friess.