Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford recently stepped back into the spotlight over the last few weeks by appearing on political talk shows and giving several media interviews. Sanford has avoided the limelight since leaving office in January, spending time on his South Carolina farm and with his four sons.
Sanford began his career in politics by winning a seat to the U.S. House of Representatives in the Republican tidal wave that swept Congress in 1994. He had built a successful career as a real estate developer and with the help of his wife, Jenny, won three congressional races before running successfully for governor in 2002. He was reelected to a second term in 2006.
But in 2009, three years into his second term, Sanford’s life and political career took an unexpected turn after he disappeared for six days on what his office first described as a “hiking trip.” Not even Sanford’s wife nor his security detail had any idea where he really was. Reporters soon discovered he had been in Argentina and evidence began to surface that the purpose of Sanford’s trip was not state business, but business of a more personal nature.
Sanford later held a press conference, and admitted he had been in an adulterous relationship with a woman in Argentina whom he referred to as his “soul mate.”
In the days and weeks ahead the grand political life – including his plans to consider a run for the White House – his legacy as South Carolina’s chief executive began to quickly unravel.
In her 2009 memoir titled, Staying True, Jenny Sanford detailed the timeline of how she found out about Sanford’s mistress and that she didn’t know where he was during the time he was AWOL.
“But when he went missing, thoughts that he was with his lover in Argentina or elsewhere dominated my mind. Those suspicions were the subject of phone calls with friends and members of his staff who had scraps of information that suggested he’d traveled to the Appalachian Trail,” Jenny Sanford wrote. “As a gut response, I worried otherwise or that if he was there, perhaps he was not alone. And while I had an impulse to cover for him, to perpetuate his lies to protect our children, in truth, I didn’t know for certain what he was doing. So when the reporter asked me if I knew where my husband was, I answered truthfully that I had no idea.”
Mark and Jenny Sanford would divorce months later. Yet while Sanford brushed off calls for his resignation, the Republican controlled legislature began discussing impeachment proceedings. House Republicans later dropped the matter, but Sanford did reimburse the state for monies the state spent on the issue.
As is the case many times when politicians are clouded by controversy, his closest political allies began to step away from him. Mark Sanford found himself almost completely alone for the first time in his political or personal life.
In an interview with CNN, Mark Sanford spoke candidly about his post political life.
“In the valleys in life, you do a whole lot more soul searching and thinking than when you’re going from mountaintop to mountaintop,” he said.
Sanford, in other interviews, has declined to discuss his former mistress and now girlfriend, Maria Belen Chapur.
“I would say that I have more well described all of my emotions and feelings toward Maria,” Sanford was quoted as saying in The New York Times. “Any of those seemingly goofy feelings that I described a couple of years back (when referring to Maria as his ‘soul mate’) have intensified, not dissipated, with time.”
Interestingly, during his time in Washington, then Congressman Mark Sanford voted to impeach then President Bill Clinton for lying under oath about his affair with his former intern, Monica Lewinsky.
Sanford said he’s not nearly as quick to judge as he once was.
“Now you look at things, and you say, by the grace of God, I’m going to worry about the log in my eye before I worry about the splinter in somebody else’s, “ Sanford told Piers Morgan on CNN. "I’ve learned a lot about grace.”
He acknowledged on CNN that he "failed in terms of properly loving my wife."
"And I think that anybody out there ought to really think about this notion of fire proofing their marriage, first of all, by having their priorities right," he said. "But it pales in comparison to what I now believe to be my first job, which is to love God with all my heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. If you get that part as true north, a lot of the other is going to take care of itself."
It is reported that Sanford is working on a memoir himself.
The former governor spends most of his time now on his family farm. He has recently built a barn and a bridge on the property and more importantly, gotten to spend more time with his four sons. Yet the question everyone wants to know is will he consider another run for public office?
“Never say never,” Sanford is quoted as saying.