In early 2009, Mark Sanford was widely regarded as a potential 2012 presidential — or at least vice-presidential — candidate. By the middle of that year, his political career appeared over, wrecked by scandal.

But on Tuesday, in yet another example of political appearances ultimately being deceiving, Mr. Sanford won the 1st Congressional District Republican runoff.

Too bad so few folks bothered to vote.

Sure, it was a special election, and a runoff, a double whammy against a big turnout.

Still, while the former governor cruised to a 57-43 percent victory over former Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic, the relatively low volume of voters suggested a lack of public engagement in this crucial choice. That followed the pattern of the similarly sparse turnout for the initial GOP and Democratic primaries on March 19.

Maybe the former governor’s 24-point margin over second-place Mr. Bostic in the first round kept Tuesday’s overall-voting numbers down. After all, many folks assumed — correctly, as it turns out — that Mr. Bostic couldn’t jump from 13 percent to a majority.

Still, our community, state and nation suffer from this self-governing deficit that transcends Washington’s red-ink flood: The galling gap between the number of Americans who complain about our elected officials’ job performance and the number of Americans who take the trouble to vote.

Let’s hope more people make their voices heard on May 7 in the 1st District general special election to replace Tim Scott. Gov. Nikki Haley promoted him to the U.S. Senate early this year after Jim DeMint resigned with four years left in his second term.

Mr. Sanford appears again to be the general-election favorite over Elizabeth Colbert Busch, director of business development at Clemson University’s Restoration Institute on the former Charleston Navy Base.

However, Mrs. Colbert Bush did roll to the Democratic nomination with 96 percent of the March 19 primary vote. And her campaign released an internal poll Monday showing her with a three-point lead over Mr. Sanford and a nine-point edge over Mr. Bostic.

Another reason for hope on the Democratic side: Though the GOP has held the 1st District seat since Tommy Hartnett won in 1980, in 2008 then-incumbent Henry Brown retained it by a mere 52-48 percent margin over Democratic challenger Linda Ketner.

Yes, Mr. Sanford is unbeaten (5-0) in elective politics — unless you wrongly count two second-place finishes in primaries that he subsequently won in runoffs. But those victories in races for the 1st District seat and for the governorship came before his notorious 2009 “Appalachian Trail” fiasco.

That topic came up during the primary race.

It’s bound to come up again over the next five weeks.

But so are other pertinent issues.

So if you’ve already participated in the ongoing process of picking a new congressman — or congresswoman — from the 1st District, your job isn’t done yet.

If you haven’t helped make that decision yet, you can still serve as a judge — preferably a well-informed one — for the May 7 main event.

And if you think this or any other elective result is inevitable, remember that downfalls, comebacks and unexpected outcomes abound in the political realm.