ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
In South Carolina tonight, a political comeback. Republican Mark Sanford, who was once mired in scandal as the state's governor, has won a congressional seat in a special election. He has defeated Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in a race that attracted national attention. Sanford just delivered his victory speech.
MARK SANFORD: I have a question for you all. How many of you want to change Washington, D.C.?
SANFORD: I had a suspicion that that may be the case and...
SIEGEL: Well, joining us now is NPR's is Kathy Lohr, who's been following this race. And, Kathy, this election was seen as an opportunity for Mark Sanford to redeem himself after his highly publicized scandal. Has he done that?
KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: Well, in some people's minds, he has because he won this election. But I want to remind you that this is a hugely Republican district. Mitt Romney won this district by 18 points last year in the election. So I think, you know, there are some also feeling that, you know, Republicans who may not have wanted to go to the polls earlier, you know, in the month when they took some of the first polls did decide to come out today and vote for Sanford rather than voting for a Democrat. And speaking...
SANFORD: Some guy came up to me the other day. He said, you look at lot like Lazarus.
SANFORD: And I say that because if it was just about market-based ideas and limited government, this campaign would have been easily won a long time ago. But I had deficiencies that are well chronicled as a candidate. And at the end of the day, I was carried across the threshold, if you will, by an incredible team of volunteers that are represented in this room and well beyond this room.
SIEGEL: And, of course, what he had to overcome was that moment when he was unaccounted for, no one knew where he was. He said he'd been hiking the Appalachian trail, and it turned out he'd been in Argentina with his mistress, now, I gather, his fiancee. Let's talk about Mark Sanford's opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch. Apart from being the sister of Stephen Colbert, who is she and did she really ever have a serious chance in that very Republican district?
LOHR: Colbert Busch is a political newcomer. And really, she's a businesswoman. She's been involved in the shipping industry. And she is a serious - a businessperson in South Carolina. But at first, I think she was seen as a long shot and then sort of Sanford's campaign began to unravel with some new charges from Sanford's ex-wife, Jenny, that he was trespassing at her home. This was just a couple of weeks ago.
And when that came out, Colbert Busch sort of surged in one poll, and it was thought that she had a much better chance. And then as the time has progressed, Sanford came back from that and basically decided to paint the election as a choice over whether people wanted to support Nancy Pelosi and President Obama or whether they wanted to elect him. You know, he campaigned with a cardboard cutout of Nancy Pelosi, which seemed like a wild idea, but people say that it worked.
SIEGEL: And while we speak of him as the former governor, he's actually returning to the Congress. He is reclaiming a seat that he once held before that.
LOHR: Yeah. He had held the seat back in the '90s, and he held the seat for six years. And, in fact, he said to me just last week that if he did win the seat, that he would only want to keep it for another six years. So here he is tonight winning that seat and actually having an appointment with the judge for - in two days from now to appear in court on that trespassing issue.
SIEGEL: OK. Thanks, Kathy. NPR's Kathy Lohr reporting on tonight's election victory by Republican Mark Sanford, who has won a congressional seat in the special election. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.