Former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford may be getting back into politics. Sanford seriously is considering run for the 1st District congressional seat that he once held, making phone calls to gauge support for his return to elected office, multiple S.C. politicos, speaking off the record, confirmed late Thursday.

That seat is available because U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, has been appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley, a onetime Sanford protégé, to the U.S. Senate. Scott will succeed Jim DeMint, R-Greenville, who is resigning to become the new head of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and a special election will be held early next year to fill Scott’s seat.

That race is expected to be crowded.

“(I) haven’t seen (his) numbers but sure (he can win),” said a GOP operative once close toSanford. “It’s a 12-week process. It’s who starts with name ID and who can raise enough money to buy name ID. He surely has No. 1 (name ID). (And he) starts with $100,000 in the bank. I just have no idea what his negatives are.”

Sanford, a two-term Republican governor who lives in Beaufort County, was Tea Party frugal before it was politically fashionable, even voting against federal money for the new Arthur Ravenel Bridge in Charleston. He served three terms in the U.S. House, representing the 1st District, before he was elected governor in 2002.

Once considered a possible GOP dark horse presidential contender, Sanford’s political career unraveled when he disappeared from the Governor’s Mansion, reportedly to walk the Appalachian Trail. Instead, the married father of four had gone to Argentina to see his lover.

After being met by a reporter from The State at the Atlanta airport upon his return from Argentina, Sanford tearfully confessed. Subsequently divorced from First Lady Jenny Sanford, Gov. Sanford escaped impeachment but paid a record state ethics fine for using state assets.

Since leaving office, Sanford has appeared on Fox News as a political expert and commentator. His former wife was on Gov. Haley’s “short list” to succeed DeMint.

-- Gina Smith of the (Hilton Head) Island Packet contributed to this article