In a local race that drew national attention, former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford defeated Democratic nominee Elizabeth Colbert-Busch Tuesday night in a special election for the state's first Congressional seat. The Associated Press called the race early in the evening with returns showing Sanford leading by a margin of 54 to 46 percent.
Mitt Romney won this district by 18 points last fall, but Sanford’s personal history made the seat competitive. Democrats poured money into the race while national Republicans abandoned their candidate, giving Colbert Busch a 5-to-1 advantage in outside spending.
Those ads, and Colbert Busch herself, made an issue out of Sanford’s 2009 disappearance to be with his Argentinean mistress, which led to an ethics investigation into his travel.
In spite of that cash and a trespassing complaint filed by Sanford’s ex-wife in the 48 hours before the election, he was gaining momentum. Throughout the race he tied Colbert Busch to national Democrats and emphasized his own fiscal conservatism, an ultimately successful strategy.
Blake Zeff is the former politics editor of Salon. Follow him on Twitter at @blakezeff.