CHARLESTON — Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford confirmed Wednesday he is running for his old seat in Congress after a break from politics that followed his affair with an Argentine woman.
The Republican, who was a strong fiscal conservative before the advent of the Tea Party, said Wednesday he wants to go back to Washington because spending is threatening the nation's future.
Sanford is seeking the 1st District seat on the state's coast. Its former occupant, U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, was appointed to the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the resignation of Sen. Jim DeMint.Sanford was considered a possible Republican presidential contender until he revealed in 2009 that he had an affair with an Argentine woman to whom he has since become engaged. He finished out his second term in 2011 and did not run for another office.
The two-term governor was seen as a possible contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination before he vanished from South Carolina for five days in 2009 to visit his mistress in Argentina. Reporters and others were told he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.
When he returned, Sanford was confronted at the airport by a reporter for The State newspaper, leading him to ultimately confess the affair in a tearful State House news conference. He later called Maria Belen Chapur his “soul mate” and the couple got engaged last summer.
The international affair ended any hopes Sanford had of running for president and destroyed his marriage, which ended in divorce from his wife, Jenny.
Jenny Sanford said Monday that, after considering the race, she will not seek the 1st District seat, saying being at home with her family was more important.
“The idea of killing myself to run for a seat for the privilege of serving in a dysfunctional body under (House Speaker) John Boehner when I have an eighth-grader at home just really doesn't make sense to me,” she said.
As for her ex-husband, she said “he did a good job as congressman and he has as much right as anybody else to run for Congress, and we'll see what happens.”
But, she added, “my ex-husband's going to have a number of questions to answer, and how he deals with them will make or break his campaign.”
Before leaving office, Sanford avoided impeachment but was censured by the Legislature over state travel expenses he used for the affair. He also had paid what is still the largest ethics fine ever in South Carolina at $70,000.
Sanford was elected to the 1st District seat in 1994 and served three terms before voters chose him as governor in 2002 and again in 2006. The district reaches south along the South Carolina coast from Charleston to the Georgia state line.
Filing doesn't open until Friday, but another famous name got into the contest on Tuesday.
Teddy Turner, the son of media magnate Ted Turner, announced he's holding a reception on Thursday to kick off his campaign for the GOP nomination.
“Spending in Washington has gotten way out of control with no real efforts to cut spending while thousands go without jobs. It's frustrating and I believe I can bring fresh ideas to provide a path of creating jobs while fighting to control spending in Washington,” Turner said.