The political career of former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has taken yet another odd spin.
A brief refresher: In early June 2009, Sanford’s staff and constituents alike were blindsided when their governor was suddenly nowhere to be found. The word was that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he was oddly unreachable via cellphone. Fast forward a few weeks, and Mark Sanford took center stage at a news conference, admitting the he had been in Argentina, engaged in an extra-marital affair.
Four years have now passed, and Mark Sanford is running for South Carolina’s vacant House seat, hoping his tarnished image won’t kill his chances. He’s already out with a TV ad that tells voters his mistakes have only made him stronger and more qualified to serve them.
The former governor said his ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, was not planning to launch her own bid for the House seat and said he received her blessing before he announced his candidacy. Did Mark Sanford look into his ex-wife’s political intentions purely out of respect, or was there something else at stake?
Spoiler alert: Jenny Sanford served as her husband’s campaign manager during his previous campaigns, and he got the votes when she was in charge.
From New York Magazine:
“Mark wanted more than just his ex-wife’s disavowal of interest. When he first ran for Congress in 1994, he installed Jenny as his campaign manager. He did this for reasons of economy—“You’re free,” he told her at the time—but she proved a natural at the job.”
“So when Mark came to visit her, he arrived with a proposal. “Since you’re not running, I want to know if you’ll run my campaign,” he said. “We could put the team back together.”
Jenny told him, in so many words, that wasn’t going to happen. Mark made one last appeal.
“I could pay you this time,” he said.
It’s hardly surprising that Jenny Sanford was not interested in reprising her role as campaign manager for her ex-husband. She filed for divorce after the “Appalacian Trail” incident. The part that’s hard to understand is why Sanford would reach out to her to run his campaign. He’s currently engaged to the Argentinian woman at the center of the 2009 scandal. Adding Jenny Sanford to the campaign team seems like a guarantee that the scandal would dominate the news coverage of his current campaign.
Even without that bizarre scenario, the South Carolina Congressional race promises to be a colorful one. In addition to Sanford, there are 15 other Republicans vying for the seat. Teddy Turner, the son of media mogul Ted Turner, is already out with a not-so-subtle ad targeting Mark Sanford. The soap-opera style ad encourages voters to “break up” with career politicians.
With his broad name-recognition, and access to fundraising circuits, Sanford is seen as the likely frontrunner.
This race is one to watch. Reality shows only wish they had so juicy a set-up.