Dems never had a chance

Republican Mark Sanford celebrates and thanks his supporters after he won the for 1st Congressional District Seat at his campaign party at the Liberty Tap Room Tuesday May 7, 2013.(Grace Beahm/

Grace Beahm

Mark Sanford owes more to the state Legislature and the “R” behind his name than to his “God of second chances.”

A few years back, lawmakers were ready to impeach then-Gov. Sanford and end his political career over his very public personal failings.

Instead, they inadvertently set up his second act in politics. And, if he can resist the urge to snoop around on Jenny's property, he is probably back to stay.

Sanford carried more baggage into this race than Thurston Howell III takes on a three-hour tour, but he still cruised to victory Tuesday.

Honestly, that says less about him than it does about the state and its politics. The Democrats never stood a chance because the electoral deck is stacked against them.

After the 2010 Census, the Republican-controlled Legislature redrew the state's congressional districts, extracting even more Democrats from the 1st. Despite a fairly moderate Charleston County anchoring the district, Mitt Romney still carried it by 18 points.

Those numbers almost made Sanford's victory a foregone conclusion, especially in a special election where the turnout was light, and heavily red.

Elizabeth Colbert Busch was not a horrible candidate, but she wasn't a particularly good one.

Hard-core Democrats liked her business background and fairly moderate positions — but mostly they liked her famous brother, comedian Stephen Colbert.

As a result, the party skipped a primary that could have provided some much-needed seasoning.

Colbert Busch could have spent more time introducing herself to civic groups and less time declining invitations to speak publicly. Then she lost points when she appeared to avoid more than one debate with Sanford.

And the Republicans expertly criticized her for taking out-of-state money, even while they took similar amounts of money from off.

The bottom line is, hypocrisy or personal problems just don't matter.

When it comes to the 1st District, Democrats need not apply.

The Republican Party establishment doesn't love Mark Sanford, and it never has.

As governor, he fought with his own party to the point that he got little done in Columbia.

But Sanford is arguably the father of the tea party, and those folks don't care about his personal life.

As long as he continues to oppose spending one thin dime on anything, they will love him.

So for now, Sanford is back. Few of the Republicans who challenged him in the primary will look for a rematch in 2014. Sure, he might draw a challenge, but as long as he stays out of the tabloids, it probably won't be a serious one.

This outcome will not change Washington, and Sanford need not expect to be invited onto any national ticket in the near future. But he likely will become South Carolina's most high-profile congressman. Name recognition, and message, will get him that.

And to think, he owes it all to a bunch of guys who don't like him and a lot of voters who don't care about baggage — just party affiliation.

Reach Brian Hicks at Join his live chat on at 11 a.m. and hear him on public radio's “The Takeaway” at 9:20 a.m.