Sanford’s ‘trespass’ costs him GOP support - and possibly a win

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, with his fiancee Maria Belen Chapur.
Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, with his fiancee Maria Belen Chapur.
AP Photo/Bruce Smith

It’s going to be an interesting Father’s Day in the Mark Sanford household—at least as interesting as the last 24 hours of his campaign.

The latest twist in the Appalachian Trail is that Sanford is telling supporters via email to remain calm after the NRCC—the GOP body charged with helping candidates financially— says it will do to Sanford what his wife did to him: Divorce itself entirely from a situation that keeps getting weirder with every new story.

The Associated Press broke the news Tuesday night that Sanford must head to court on trespassing charges, two days AFTER a May 7 special election for the congressional seat he once held.

The AP quotes court documents that says on Feb. 3rd, the former governor decided he would spend time with his teenage son.

In his ex-wife’s house.

While she was away.

That’s a no-no by the letter of their divorce—of any divorce, really—which says neither party can just enter the ex’s house because, well, they’re your EX.

Jenny Sanford tells The AP “I want him to sink or swim on his own. For the sake of my children, I’m trying my best not to get in the way, but he makes things difficult for me when he does things like trespassing.”

Sanford, however, has a perfectly logical excuse: Yes, but it was the Super Bowl, according to a statement and email he released Wednesday:

I did indeed watch the second half of the Super Bowl at the beach house with our 14 year old son because as a father I didn’t think he should watch it alone. Given she was out of town I tried to reach her beforehand to tell her of the situation that had arisen, and met her at the back steps under the light of my cell phone when she returned and told her what had happened.

And that may be the mental image of this story that lingers: A grown man sneaking out the back of a house he’s legally not allowed to enter via the light of his cellphone.

In the email to supporters, Sanford tells them “should you have any future questions on this matter, please call me at 843-764-9188.” That’s a campaign office number (we called). Eventually, it may field questions about why voters didn’t find out about this charge BEFORE either the original March vote or the April run-off vote, when there were other, less trespass-y candidates from which to choose.

At least one South Carolina political scientist says Sanford’s appeal as a reformed, rehabilitated candidate depends on a squeaky clean image. Instead, this episode fits a pattern of a man believing he can go anywhere and do what he pleases so long as he does it (or says he does it) for love —for a mistress in one case, for a son in the other.

And it may be just the boost that his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch needs to pull out a win in an overwhelmingly conservative district.

In fact, Politico’s Bryon Tau tweets the DNC is already taking advantage:

DNC gleefully circulating this picture, re: Mark Sanford trespassing story.…

— Byron Tau (@ByronTau) April 17, 2013

Sanford's 'trespass' costs him GOP support - and possibly a win