Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford will be the Republican nominee on a ballot in his home state for the first time in seven years, after defeating former Charleston County Councilor Curtis Bostic in a primary runoff for the state's vacant First District congressional seat.
The AP called the race with Sanford receiving 55 percent of the vote to Bostic's 45 percent, with 67 percent of precincts reporting.
The win was not unexpected for Sanford, who outraised Bostic more than 15-to-1 in the pre-runoff period and was able to blanket the airwaves, building on his nearly-universal name recognition in the district he represented in Congress for three terms in the 1990s. Bostic, meanwhile, works in the district, but lives just outside its boundaries.
But Bostic built a strong coalition, drawing heavily on his ties to the evangelical Christian and home-schooling communities, and highlighting his family values in the hopes of attracting voters concerned about the affair that nearly ended Sanford's political career in 2009.
Sanford will go on to face Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the Democratic nominee, in the special election on May 7. Though the district is heavily Republican and has not elected a Democrat since the 1970s, Democrats are optimisitc about Colbert Busch's chances, particularly given an internal poll she released on Monday showing her with a marginal lead over Sanford.
Her brother's celebrity doesn't hurt either. Comedian Stephen Colbert has mentioned his sister (who pronounces the T in her surname) on his show and has already held two events for her, helping Colbert Busch to keep pace with Sanford in fundraising so far. Colbert, the faux TV pundit, will reportedly hold two more high-priced events for her this month. Colbert Busch will also likely have the help of national Democratic groups eager to start off the next election cycle with a red-state victory.
But Colbert Busch hasn't faced much opposition thus far, sailing to victory in a Democratic primary against an underfunded candidate as Republicans have spent the last three months slowly whittling down a 16-candidate field. With Sanford as their nominee, focus will now shift to Colbert Busch, who has thus far been able to present a largely uncontested image of herself as a fiscally conservative job creator.
That spotlight already began to shift on Monday night, when the Sunlight Foundation reported that Colbert Busch's campaign had wiped more than 500 tweets from her account. Many were innocuous, and Colbert Busch's campaign explained that they were trying to clean up the account to make it easier for voters to find important information. But some of the tweets, including one that indicated her support for same-sex marriage and reproductive choice, represent the difficult balance she'll have to strike over the next five weeks between exciting Democrats in the district and attracting the Republicans and independents she'll need to remain competitive.