CHARLESTON, S.C. — Four years after scandal derailed his political career, ex-Republican Gov. Mark Sanford once again holds a South Carolina political office, winning back his old congressional seat Tuesday after a race in which he battled his past and an opponent who outdid him in fundraising.
Sanford's resurrection was completed when he defeated Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of political satirist Stephen Colbert, in a district that hasn't elected a Democratic congressman in more than three decades.
"Some guy came up to me the other day and said you look a lot like Lazarus," Sanford told a crowd of more than 100 cheering supporters at his victory celebration, referring to the man who, according to the Bible, Christ raised from the dead.
With all precincts reporting, Sanford had about 54 percent of the vote.
"I've talked a lot about grace during the course of this campaign," he said. "Until you experience human grace as a reflection of God's grace, I don't think you really get it. And I didn't get it before."
Sanford, who turns 53 later this month, has never lost a race in three runs for Congress and two for governor. And he said before the votes were counted Tuesday that if he lost this one, he wouldn't run for office again.
He saw his political career disintegrate in summer 2009, when he disappeared for five days, telling his staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. He returned to admit in a tearful news conference he had been in Argentina with his mistress — a woman to whom he is now engaged.
Sanford later paid a $70,000 ethics fine, the largest in state history, for using public money to fly for personal purposes. His wife and political ally, Jenny, divorced him. They have four sons.