Sanford’s First Step in S.C. Comeback Attempt

The preponderance of political opinion suggests that disgraced former Gov. Mark Sanford (R) will advance into the second round of voting as a result of today’s special primary election in South Carolina. Sanford is among 16 Republicans vying to become the party nominee for the right to replace former Rep. Tim Scott (R), who is now an appointed US senator.

The ex-two-term governor, who spent three terms in the House during the 90s (1995-2001), ended his tenure in statewide public office with revelations of a wild extra-marital affair with a South American mistress. The associated events became national news and ended up costing the governor his marriage as well as a great deal of personal credibility. Now, he’s looking for a political comeback and, if local predictions prove accurate, he may be taking the first step to achieving his goal tonight.

Even if he advances, Sanford will be a decided underdog in the run-off regardless of who becomes the other qualifier. For a person with universal name ID to finish more than 15 points away from majority support in a first election normally dooms said candidate to defeat in the succeeding run-off. In this case, noting South Carolina’s traditionally short run-off periods, the second election is scheduled for April 2.

The strongest candidates, other than Sanford, appear to be state Sen. Larry Grooms, state Rep. Chip Limehouse, former state Sen. John Kuhn, and Teddy Turner, son of media magnate Ted Turner. State Rep. Peter McCoy and Rep. Andy Patrick are also in the field of candidates but neither has made any impact on the fundraising circuit, gathering less than $65,000 apiece.

The Democratic side is also drawing some attention. Though their eventual nominee will be a decided underdog in the May 7 special general election, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, sister of Comedy Central TV personality Stephen Colbert, is poised to capture her party’s nomination. Like the top contending Republicans, Colbert-Busch has raised slightly over $300,000 and has more than $200,000 remaining in her campaign account. Not likely to face a run-off election, she will have the ability to raise money from national sources in hopes of becoming competitive in the special general.

In the past few years, the Republicans have had a difficult time in winning special elections, even in seats that are normally considered safe. SC-1 is such a seat, and should former Gov. Sanford somehow come away with the special election nomination at the end of the run-off process, the Democrats could again find themselves in a position to steal a district that should be untouchable.

It is highly unlikely that Sanford will win the Republican nomination, and he has even slimmer odds of actually capturing the seat, but he certainly will make things interesting tonight.

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