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S.C. Voters Confer Comeback Title On Mark Sanford


Many a politician suffers a setback and recovers. Rarely does a politician endure a scandal and nationwide mockery on the scale of Mark Sanford and still recover.


Sanford did. South Carolina's former governor defeated Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in a special election for Congress.


INSKEEP: Lazarus is described in the Bible as a man Jesus brought back from the dead. NPR's Kathy Lohr reports on Sanford's political resurrection.

KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: In his victory speech, Sanford thanked what he called a God of second chances for regaining the congressional seat he first won in the 1990s.


LOHR: The campaign focused on Sanford's character - not just the 2009 scandal when he left the country to have an affair, but said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Recently, the former governor's ex-wife Jenny accused him of trespassing at her home. During the campaign, Sanford said he'd done a lot of soul-searching, and he acknowledged that again last night.


LOHR: The National Republicans withdrew their support for Sanford, but he refocused the campaign on national Democratic groups that spent nearly $1 million on behalf of Elizabeth Colbert Busch. Sanford even campaigned with a cardboard cutout of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and tried to tie his opponent to liberals in Congress.


LOHR: In her concession speech, Colbert Busch - businesswoman and sister of comedian Stephen Colbert - said she knew the race would be an uphill climb.


LOHR: Mitt Romney won this district by 18 points last year, and voters here haven't elected a Democrat in more than three decades. In the end, they picked Sanford again.

ROBERT OLDENDICK: It's South Carolina, which means the Republican identification trumps everything.

LOHR: Robert Oldendick is a political science professor at the University of South Carolina. He says Sanford's personal problems did affect the race, but not enough for voters to elect a Democrat.

OLDENDICK: It kind of sent the message that this is not our favorite candidate. We're kind of holding our nose as we go into the booth here. But when it comes to that person in Congress who's going to represent our views, we'd much rather have Mark Sanford.

LOHR: The former governor appears in court tomorrow to answer his ex-wife's trespassing complaint. In a statement, the National Republicans congratulate Sanford and say the results demonstrate how devastating the policy of the president and Pelosi are for House Democrats in 2014. But National Democrats say the fact that this deeply Republican district was competitive is a testament to the strength of Colbert Busch and a warning that the GOP will have to defend this seat again next year.

Kathy Lohr, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kathy Lohr
Whether covering the manhunt and eventual capture of Eric Robert Rudolph in the mountains of North Carolina, the remnants of the Oklahoma City federal building with its twisted metal frame and shattered glass, flood-ravaged Midwestern communities, or the terrorist bombings across the country, including the blast that exploded in Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta, correspondent Kathy Lohr has been at the heart of stories all across the nation.