Was The God Of Second Chances Smiling Down On South Carolina Republicans Today-- Or Setting Them Up For A Fall?
Mark Sanford was first elected to represent South Carolina's first congressional district in 1994, when incumbent Arthur Ravenel-- yes, father of notorious cocaine dealer and South Carolina ex-Treasurer Tom Ravenel-- stepped down to run for governor. Ravenel lost his GOP primary runoff. Sanford won his. The district runs along the coast (although no longer includes the northern section around Myrtle Beach like it did when Sanford represented the area); it goes all the way past Hilton Head to the outskirts of Savannah. By South Carolina standards, it's almost a "moderate" district. Moderate Republican, that is. After Sanford left the seat to run for governor, Henry Brown took the seat but he retired rather than face a Tea Party primary-- which is how Tim Scott came to occupy the seat (before being appointed to the U.S. Senate when Jim DeMint suddenly resigned last year). Scott has just been reelected 176-738 (62%)- 100,351 (35%). In 2008, though, progressive Democrat, Linda Ketner, nearly beat Brown 177,540 (52%)- 163,724 (48%). Nonetheless, with African-Americans carefully redistricted into SC-06 (an overwhelming black majority district represented by Jim Clyburn and won by Obama this year with over 70%, SC-01 is considered pretty safe for any average Republican against any average Democrat.
Today was the primary and neither top vote getter, Sanford for the red team, and Elizabeth Colbert Busch for team blue, is an average politician. He's a notorious philanderer and she's Stephen Colbert's sister. But just because Sanford came in first today, it doesn't mean he'll be running against her in the general election on May 7th. First comes the run-off between Sanford and (apparently) Curtis Bostic on April 2.
Rep. Chip Limehouse, who took 6% of the votes, spent the most on TV ads, over $350,000, followed by Teddy Turner ($260,000 for 8% of the votes) and then Sanford ($175,000 who came in first with 37%), although he wasn't exactly fighting for name recognition. State Senator Larry Grooms only managed to put $116,000 into TV ads and won 12% (to Bostic's 13%) but he boasted he had been endorsed by Tea Party extremist congressmen Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney.
In a telephone interview, Duncan said he knows and is friends with a number of the candidates, but he said the one who stood out as a proven conservative was Grooms. Duncan said he was making calls to the district on Grooms’ behalf but would probably save in-district campaigning for the runoff.As expected Colbert-Busch won the Democratic primary outright (no run-off). She took 96% of the vote. Former Charleston County councilman Curtis Bostic held a narrow lead over Grooms for second-- and a shot in the run-off. Because the margin is so narrow, less than one percent, an automatic recount is triggered. [UPDATE: Grooms conceded-- so it will be Sanford vs Bostic.]
“I think he’s on the upswing,” Duncan said on March 15. “I think he’s going to be in the runoff and he may be saving my powder until the runoff and we’ll look to trying help him get across the finish line at that point.”
South Carolina’s political history has shown that the second-place finisher in a GOP primary can win the runoff.
Most recently, in the 2012 Republican primary for the new 7th District, former Lt. Gov. André Bauer came in first in the primary, topping then-Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice by 5 points. But in the runoff, Rice won by 12 points.
In 2004, Republican Jim DeMint came in second in his Senate primary, only to win the runoff and take the office.