You only have one more day to qualify to win your very own … seat in Congress!

That's right — you and a friend (wink, wink) could be going on a taxpayer-funded trip to our nation's capital for a two-year vacation as a member of the country's most-loathed public institution.

You will be wined and dined by lobbyists, become eligible for posh health care and retirement benefits, and may even have the chance to call the president a socialist on national cable news. Or Fox.

Enter today and your chances of winning are 1-in-17. Please note: chances of winning are slightly lower if you are not Mark Sanford.

Sorry, but the race to fill South Carolina's 1st congressional district seat is turning into a spectacle of national proportions. Voters have their choice of a famous former governor, the son of Ted Turner, the sister of Stephen Colbert and just about every member of the South Carolina General Assembly (except for the son of Strom Thurmond, who nearly won the seat a few years ago).

What could possibly go wrong here? Well, other than three months of national ridicule.

Ringing the dinner bell

An open seat in Congress does strange things to people.

It's one of the cushiest gigs in politics — great pay, apparently little actual work. And even though Congress has approval ratings like Arctic Circle temperatures, incumbents are re-elected more than 90 percent of the time.

So every politician and wannabe politician with delusions of grandeur wants this gig.

They all have good reasons. Former Dorchester County Sheriff Ray Nash is worried about attacks on the Constitution, state Rep. Chip Limehouse is worried about the U.S. Attorney General hacking his email, and former state Sen. John Kuhn is just about tired of holding seminars on wills and probate court.

And Sanford — who inadvertently turned “hiking the Appalachian Trail” into the best euphemism in politics — is running because he brought a limited government, don't tax, don't spend approach to this very seat before it was cool.

He may be the guy to beat.

“I kind of see a situation where it's possible Sanford could win it in the first pass without a runoff,” says Neal Thigpen, the dean of South Carolina political scientists.

Didn't see that coming, huh?

Enter now

Thigpen says it's about name identification, and many of these folks are unknown outside their own little worlds.

But we all know Sanford.

And people along the coast, Thigpen notes, are a little more cosmopolitan than those Upstate folk who might have a problem with the way Sanford's term as governor ended (yet had no problem voting for Newt Gingrich).

There you go. All you have to do is beat a former governor, a Charleston County school board member, a former Charleston county councilman, a former sheriff, a former state senator, and every member of the state Legislature — except for Strom Thurmond's son — and you too could be just as hated as Nancy Pelosi.

The deadline for filing is Monday at noon. Remember, as those lottery folks say, you have to play to win.

Reach Brian Hicks at