CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford advanced Tuesday to a runoff in the Republican contest for an open congressional seat along the state's southern coast, taking a 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."
Based on early returns on Tuesday evening, it was unclear who Sanford would face in the April 2 GOP runoff. But the eventual Republican candidate will square off against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert. She won the Democratic primary for the seat, handily defeating perennial candidate Ben Frasier.
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 seat but decided against it.
In addition to Sanford, 15 other candidates were vying in the GOP primary.
Former Charleston County councilman Curtis Bostic held a slim lead over state Sen. Larry Grooms for second place. The margin was so narrow, less than one percent, that a recount would automatically be required. Teddy Turner, the son of media mogul Ted Turner, trailed Bostic and Grooms.
Sanford had about 37 percent of the vote.
Mark Sanford voted Tuesday and 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 state's empty U.S. Senate seat.