Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford officially has a runoff opponent: He'll face former Charleston City Councilor Curtis Bostic, who narrowly came in second in last night's GOP primary, in the April 2 contest.
State Sen. Larry Grooms, who came in third place by fewer than 500 votes last night in South Carolina's First Congressional District, conceded second to Bostic in a statement on Wednesday. The state will move forward with a mandatory recount regardless, as is required by state law when two candidates come within one percentage point of each other, but Grooms' decision will allow Bostic to mount a short, two-week campaign as Sanford's official opposition.
"To the possibility of a recount, as I understand it, the state Election Commission will begin an automatic recount as outlined by state law -- and I will be the 'official' third place finisher in the race," Grooms said in the statement. "I wish Gov. Mark Sanford and Curtis Bostic all the best. Like all the candidates and office holders across America, they too will constantly be in my prayers."
Though he lacked the fundraising capability and television presence of many of the other fifteen contenders for the runoff slot, Bostic ran a superior get-out-the-vote campaign, building off of his popularity in the district's evangelical and home-school communities. The attorney has hosted a radio show on several Christian stations in the Charleston area for over fifteen years and is a prominent donor to home-schooling groups.
His campaign ran an operation they called Priority One, according to manager David O'Connell, in which they reached out to individual church members and asked them to encourage a friend to support Bostic -- and pass that contact information back to the campaign. Bostic's volunteers then reached out again to those potential supporters and encouraged them to get out and vote for the former county councilor.
Bostic's influence with religious groups sets up an interesting contrast with Sanford, who focused heavily on fiscal issues in Congress, as governor and in the campaign. It could also help him draw additional supporters upset by Sanford's infidelity. Bostic is also a former Marine and has played up that fact to appeal to the district's sizeable military population.
Still, Sanford outpaced Bostic by more than 12,600 votes in last night's primary, or slightly less than half Bostic's overall vote share. If he can get those voters to back him again in the runoff -- not a minor consideration given that voters will have to return to the polls in just two weeks' time -- he'll have a huge advantage over Bostic. Whether that will be accompanied by a financial advantage as well will be answered later this week, as pre-runoff disclosures are due to the Federal Election Commission by midnight tomorrow night. Sanford raised nearly twice as much money as Bostic did in the last reporting period, which ran from January 1 to February 27.
Bostic could also gain votes from the supporters of the other primary candidates, though several Republican operatives in the state told Hotline On Call that those voters could just as likely sit out the runoff entirely. At least one of those candidates, Charleston County school board member Elizabeth Moffly, has already endorsed Sanford.
The winner of the runoff will face Democratic nominee Elizabeth Colbert Busch on May 7.