Sanford vs Sanford in SC-01?

posted at 8:01 am on December 21, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

It’s tough for a disgraced politician to successfully come back from scandal.  Most don’t even try.  However, according to CNN and other sources, Mark Sanford might try one of the most difficult comebacks in political history.  Not only is he seriously considering making a run for his old Congressional seat a few years after a sex scandal, he may — or may not — have to run against his wronged ex-wife in the primary:

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is launching a political comeback that may begin within days.

Sanford is planning to run for the Congressional seat he held almost a decade ago, a Republican source familiar with his thinking told CNN late Thursday. …

Sanford intends to seek the Republican nomination in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, a seat being vacated by Rep. Tim Scott, who was appointed to the United States Senate earlier this week by Gov. Nikki Haley.

Sanford served three terms in the House, first coming to Washington during the Contract With America class of 1994.  He later won two terms as governor and had been considered one of the conservative wing’s more promising bench candidates — until his bizarre disappearance from his office in 2009, and the now-infamous claim that Sanford was hiking the Appalachian trail.  He was spotted in an airport returning from South America, and his affair with an Argentinian woman became public.  His wife left him, and Sanford resigned in embarrassment.

Now he wants to return to public office, but … isn’t his ex-wife also interested in the seat?  CNN’s Peter Hamby thinks that Jenny Sanford may have decided not to run for the seat despite being rumored to have considered it:

His ex-wife, Jenny, a resident of Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, has been courted to run for office for years and was on Haley’s shortlist to replace DeMint in the Senate. She told several media outlets this week that she was open to the idea of running for Scott’s House seat.

But Mark Sanford’s apparent decision to run for Congress is a strong signal that Jenny Sanford will not: He has made clear to confidantes in recent days that he would not embark on a campaign that pitted him against his ex-wife.

Well, Jenny Sanford hasn’t said no publicly yet, either.  Her profile got raised by Governor Nikki Haley, who had Mrs. Sanford on her short list to replace Jim DeMint in the Senate until deciding on Tim Scott.  It’s a little difficult to imagine that Haley would have raised Mrs. Sanford’s profile to that degree without her having an interest in public office at the federal level, and this special-election opportunity won’t come around again soon.  On the other hand, perhaps Mrs. Sanford has no desire to relive the scandal in the glare of a political campaign, either, and it would be impossible to blame her for feeling that way.

Assuming that his ex-wife has decided to clear the field for him, will everyone else do the same?  Remember, Sanford got censured by the South Carolina legislature over allegations that he used state resources for his extramarital affair on a 102-11 vote in the House, but only after mulling over impeachment for a few weeks.  Sanford still refused to resign, holding onto his job for the remainder of his term.  It seems unlikely that no other Republican will challenge Sanford given that track record, and that only three years after his scandal he can successfully navigate his way back to Washington with no opposition.

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