CHARLESTON Voters are about to whittle down the crowded field in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District and decide whether disgraced former Gov. Mark Sanford has a political future.
They go to the polls Tuesday in special primaries in the district along the state's south coast reaching from northeast of Charleston southwest to Hilton Head Island.
There are 16 Republicans on the ballot including Sanford and Teddy Turner, the son of media mogul Ted Turner. There are only two Democrats: Elizabeth Colbert Bush, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert and perennial candidate Ben Frasier.
It is Sanford's first run for office since a 2009 scandal in which he revealed an affair that derailed his political career. 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 has become engaged to after divorcing his wife, Jenny.
Sanford, with his name recognition and his deep campaign war chest, is expected to be one of the two Republicans who will make it into an April 2 GOP runoff in the heavily Republican District. The special election to fill the seat is May 7.
He has a farm in Beaufort County in the southern end of the district and now lives in Charleston, in the northern end. And he is seeking same seat he held in Congress for three terms in the 1990s. Sanford has never lost a political race, winning three terms in Congress and then two as governor.
Last fall, Mitt Romney won the conservative 1st District by 18 percentage points, although he only beat President Obama by 10 statewide.
The seat became vacant when Gov. Nikki Haley last year appointed Tim Scott to fill the U.S. Senate seat left empty when Jim DeMint resigned.
That opened the doors for a flood of candidates, including Sanford, several sitting state lawmakers, political unknowns and some known names, like Turner and Colbert Bush, making their first runs for political office.
Heading into the final weeks of campaigning, Federal Election Commission reports showed the candidates had raised about $3 million and spent about $2 million. Sanford had $365,000 entering the final weeks of the campaign, the most of any candidate.
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