MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. - The former U.S. governor who stepped down over an affair with an Argentine woman will face the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert in a special election for a vacant seat in the U.S. Congress.
"It's a dream matchup if you're a fan and enjoy politics," said Gibbs Knotts, the chairman of the political science department at the College of Charleston.
Former Gov. Mark Sanford will face Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the May 7 special election after winning a Republican party primary Tuesday night.
Four years ago, Sanford was mentioned as a potential presidential candidate. But he vanished from the state for five days, and reporters were told he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.
He later returned and tearfully acknowledged he had been in Argentina visiting Maria Belen Chapur, with whom he was having an extramarital affair. Sanford's wife, Jenny, later divorced him.
Sanford is now engaged to Chapur, who still lives in Argentina and made her first public campaign appearance with him Tuesday. Sanford said she surprised him by attending.
"She's going to show up when she wants to show up," Sanford said when asked if she would be campaigning. "She's a very private person."
Sanford has said the couple plans to marry this year.
Knotts sees Chapur's emergence as part of Sanford's work of political redemption.
"The electorate is going to become no more conservative than he has faced already," he said, noting that Republican primary voters are the most conservative and might be judgmental of Sanford's past.
Colbert Busch worked in the shipping industry for years, and last month, she easily won the Democratic nomination in the Republican-leaning district, which voted last year for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Having Stephen Colbert as a brother is an advantage in fundraising, Knotts said.
Colbert hosts a popular nightly half hour of political satire, "The Colbert Report," where he plays the role of a conservative political pundit with a big mouth and bigger ego.
But while big names and personality are important, the race will come down to fundamental politics, Knotts added.
"This is a district that went for Romney pretty handily, so it's going to be a challenge for any Democratic candidate," he said.
Associated Press writer Bruce Smith contributed.