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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — In a story of political redemption, Mark Sanford is headed back to Congress after his career was derailed by scandal four years ago.

"I am one imperfect man saved by God's grace," the Republican told about 100 cheering supporters Tuesday after defeating Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch to win back the 1st District seat he held for three terms in the 1990s. "It's my pledge to all of you going forward I'm going to be one of the best congressmen I could have ever been."

On Wednesday, Sanford told NBC's "Today" show he thinks his record as a watchdog for taxpayers was more important than his personal redemption story.

"I think I have an incredibly strong track record with regard to watching out for people's pocketbook," he said.

Although the race was thought to be close going into the voting, Sanford collected 54 percent of the vote against Colbert Busch, the sister of political satirist Stephen Colbert, in a district that hasn't elected a Democratic congressman in more than three decades. About 32 percent of the district's voters went to the polls. Green Party candidate Eugene Platt finished far behind.

"Some guy came up to me the other day and said you look a lot like Lazarus," Sanford told the crowd Tuesday night, referring to the man who, according to the Bible, Christ raised from the dead. "I've talked a lot about grace during the course of this campaign," he said. "Until you experience human grace as a reflection of God's grace, I don't think you really get it. And I didn't get it before."

While he credited his conservative credentials on Wednesday, he did not back away from his problems.

"I let a lot of folks down back in 2009 and yet I've been on a remarkable personal journey since then and I hope my life will reflect that going forward," Sanford said.

Sanford, who turns 53 later this month, has now never lost a race in four runs for Congress and two for governor. And he said before the votes were counted Tuesday that if he lost this one, he wouldn't run for office again.

He saw his political career disintegrate in summer 2009 when he disappeared for five days, telling his staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. He returned to admit in a tearful news conference he had been in Argentina with his mistress — a woman to whom he is now engaged. Sanford later paid a $70,000 ethics fine, the largest in state history, for using public money to fly for personal purposes. His wife and political ally, Jenny, divorced him.

Three weeks before the special election, news surfaced that Sanford's ex-wife had filed a court complaint alleging he was in her house without permission in violation of their divorce decree, leading the National Republican Congressional Committee to pull its support from the campaign. Sanford must appear in court Thursday on the complaint.

Sanford said he tried to get in touch with his ex-wife and was in the house so his youngest son would not have to watch the Super Bowl alone.

The congressional seat became vacant when U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint resigned from his Senate seat late last year. Governor Nikki Haley then appointed the sitting congressman, Tim Scott, to fill DeMint's seat.

"We put up a heck of a fight, didn't we?" Colbert Busch told a crowd of supporters at a hotel in Charleston. "The people have spoken, and I respect their decision."

Although the district is strongly Republican, Colbert Busch raised more money than Sanford. And national Democrats flooded the airwaves with ads attacking Sanford's past indiscretions.

Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Sanford now becomes the face of the Republican efforts to reach out to women voters and the GOP will have to defend him.

"In this deep red Republican district that Mitt Romney won by 18 points, the fact that the Democrat made this competitive is a testament to the strength of Elizabeth Colbert Busch as a candidate and the Republican habit of nominating flawed candidates," he said in a statement.

But Greg Walden, his counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee countered that the "results demonstrate just how devastating the policies of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi are for House Democrats in 2014. Democrats spent more than $1 million trying to elect a candidate who was backed by the Democrat machine, but at the end of the day, running on the Obama-Pelosi ticket was just too toxic for Elizabeth Colbert Busch."
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A transcript of the 911 call placed Monday by a woman missing since 2003, when she was 16.

(unintelligible)

Caller: Help me. I'm Amanda Berry.

Dispatcher: You need police, fire, ambulance?

Caller: I need police.

Dispatcher: OK, and what's going on there?

Caller: I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years, and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now.

Dispatcher: OK, and what's your address?

Caller: 2207 Seymour Avenue.

Dispatcher: 2207 Seymour. Looks like you're calling me from 2210.

Caller: Huh?

Dispatcher: Looks like you're calling me from 2210.

Caller: I can't hear you.

Dispatcher: Looks like you're calling me from 2210 Seymour.

Caller: I'm across the street; I'm using the phone.

Dispatcher: OK, stay there with those neighbors. Talk to police when they get there.

Caller: (Crying)

Dispatcher: OK, talk to police when they get there.

Caller: OK. Hello?

Dispatcher: OK, talk to the police when they get there.

Caller: OK (unintelligible).

Dispatcher: We're going to send them as soon as we get a car open.

Caller: No, I need them now before he gets back.

Dispatcher: All right; we're sending them, OK?

Caller: OK, I mean, like ...

Dispatcher: Who's the guy you're trying -- who's the guy who went out?

Caller: Um, his name is Ariel Castro.

Dispatcher: OK. How old is he?

Caller: He's like 52.

Dispatcher: And, uh -

Caller: I'm Amanda Berry. I've been on the news for the last 10 years.

Dispatcher: I got, I got that, dear. (Unintelligible) And, you say, what was his name again?

Caller: Uh, Ariel Castro.

Dispatcher: And is he white, black or Hispanic?

Caller: Uh, Hispanic.

Dispatcher: What's he wearing?

Caller (agitated): I don't know, 'cause he's not here right now. That's why I ran away.

Dispatcher: When he left, what was he wearing?

Caller: Who knows (unintelligible).

Dispatcher: The police are on their way; talk to them when they get there.

Caller: Huh? I - OK.

Dispatcher: I told you they're on their way; talk to them when they get there, OK.

Caller: All right, OK. Bye. ___ Source: Cleveland law department
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CLEVELAND (AP) -- The woman's voice was frantic and breathless, and she was choking back tears. "Help me. I'm Amanda Berry," she told a 911 dispatcher. "I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now."

Those words led police to a house near downtown Cleveland where Berry and two other women who vanished a decade ago were found Monday, elating family members and friends who had longed to see them again.

Authorities later arrested three brothers. They released no names and gave no information about them or what charges they might face.

City officials have scheduled a news conference for Tuesday morning.

Police Chief Michael McGrath said he thinks Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were tied up at the house and held there since they were in their teens or early 20s.

A 6-year-old also was found in the home, but police didn't disclose the child's identity or relationship to anyone in the home. The women appeared to be in good health and were taken to a hospital to be evaluated and be reunited with relatives.

The women's escape and rescue began with a frenzied cry for help.

A neighbor, Charles Ramsey, told WEWS-TV he heard screaming Monday and saw Berry, whom he didn't recognize, at a door that would open only enough to fit a hand through. He said she was trying desperately to get outside and pleaded for help to reach police.

"I heard screaming," he said. "I'm eating my McDonald's. I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house."

Neighbor Anna Tejeda was sitting on her porch with friends when they heard someone across the street kicking a door and yelling.

Tejeda, 50, said one of her friends went over and told Berry how to kick the screen out of the bottom of the door, which allowed her to get out.

Speaking Spanish, which was translated by one of her friends, Tejeda said Berry was nervous and crying. She was dressed in pajamas and old sandals.

At first Tejeda said she didn't want to believe who the young woman was. "You're not Amanda Berry," she insisted. "Amanda Berry is dead."

But when Berry told her she'd been kidnapped and held captive, Tejeda said she gave her the telephone to call police, who arrived within minutes and then took the other women from the house.

On a recorded 911 call Monday, Berry declared, "I'm Amanda Berry. I've been on the news for the last 10 years."

She said she had been taken by someone and begged for police officers to come to the home on Cleveland's west side before the man returned.

"I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years," she told the dispatcher. "And I'm here. I'm free now."

Berry disappeared at age 16 on April 21, 2003, when she called her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King. About a year later, DeJesus vanished at age 14 on her way home from school. Police said Knight disappeared in 2002 and is 32 now.

Berry is now 27, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Authorities didn't provide a current age DeJesus.

Police said one of the brothers who was arrested, a 52-year-old, lived at the home, and the others, ages 50 and 54, lived elsewhere.

Ramsey, the neighbor, said he'd barbecued with the home's owner and never suspected anything was amiss.

"There was nothing exciting about him - well, until today," he said.

Julio Castro, who runs a grocery store half a block from where the women were found, said the homeowner arrested is his nephew, Ariel Castro.

Berry also identified Ariel Castro by name in her 911 call.

Attempts to reach Ariel Castro in jail were unsuccessful Monday. Messages to the sheriff's office and a jail spokesman went unanswered, and there was no public phone listing for the home, which was being searched by dozens of police officers and sheriff's deputies.

The uncle said Ariel Castro had worked as a school bus driver. The Cleveland school district confirmed he was a former employee but wouldn't release details.

The women's loved ones said they hadn't given up hope of seeing them again.

A childhood friend of DeJesus, Kayla Rogers, said she couldn't wait to hug her.

"I've been praying, never forgot about her, ever," Rogers told The Plain Dealer newspaper.

Berry's cousin Tasheena Mitchell told the newspaper she couldn't wait to have Berry in her arms.

"I'm going to hold her, and I'm going to squeeze her and I probably won't let her go," she said.

Berry's mother, Louwana Miller, who had been hospitalized for months with pancreatitis and other ailments, died in March 2006. She had spent the previous three years looking for her daughter, whose disappearance took a toll as her health steadily deteriorated, family and friends said.

Councilwoman Dona Brady said she had spent many hours with Miller, who never gave up hope that her daughter was alive.

"She literally died of a broken heart," Brady said.

Mayor Frank Jackson expressed gratitude that the three women were found alive. He said there are many unanswered questions in the ongoing investigation.

At Metro Health Medical Center, Dr. Gerald Maloney wouldn't discuss the women's conditions in detail but said they were being evaluated by appropriate specialists.

"This is really good, because this isn't the ending we usually hear in these stories," he said. "So, we're very happy."

In January, a prison inmate was sentenced to 4 1/2 years after admitting he provided a false burial tip in the disappearance of Berry. A judge in Cleveland sentenced Robert Wolford on his guilty plea to obstruction of justice, making a false report and making a false alarm.

Last summer, Wolford tipped authorities to look for Berry's remains in a Cleveland lot. He was taken to the location, which was dug up with backhoes.

Two men arrested for questioning in the disappearance of DeJesus in 2004 were released from the city jail in 2006 after officers didn't find her body during a search of the men's house.

In September 2006, police acting on a tip tore up the concrete floor of the garage and used a cadaver dog to search unsuccessfully for DeJesus' body. Investigators confiscated 19 pieces of evidence during their search but declined to comment on the significance of the items then.

--- Associated Press writer Kantele Franko in Columbus contributed to this report.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
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