Mark Sanford announces for Congress, discusses challenges

The (Hilton Head) Island PacketJanuary 16, 2013 

US NEWS GOVERNORS 14 PH

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford

TOM GRALISH — MCT

Former Gov. Mark Sanford, who officially announced this morning he’s running to represent the 1st Congressional District, has something to say about ex-wife Jenny Sanford and fiancee Maria Belen Chapur — but not Gov. Nikki Haley whom he helped catapult to the governor’s office in 2010 by raising money for her and encouraging his supporters to back her.

“I’m not about to grade other people on their report card,” Sanford said, when asked about Haley. “I’m about to get my own report card.”

Haley said she is not surprised Sanford is running for the congressional seat along the Lowcountry coast.

“He is someone that is very involved in policy and has always loved policy," she told reporters while previewing her annual State of the State address scheduled for tonight. "This is going back home to him, which would be his old congressional seat.”

While Sanford plans to marry Chapur, whom he secretly left the state to visit in Argentina in 2009, he isn’t giving up any wedding details. The secret trip not only destroyed Sanford’s marriage but ended growing talk of Sanford as a viable presidential contender in 2012.

“All I’m going to say is I love her, I’m engaged to her and I’m going to marry her,” said Sanford. And while he stopped short of saying his ex-wife is in favor of his run, he said she is not opposing it. Jenny Sanford is credited with helping craft and run his previous successful campaigns. Some had hoped she would run for Congress, but she has said she will not.

Sanford said his first stop was to her home when he was mulling whether to run for the district, which includes Beaufort County.

“It’s the first visit I made. I said, ‘If you have any interest in doing this, I won’t,’” he said. “When she said she wasn’t, I continued this process.”

And yes, he’s preparing for the Appalachian jokes. (Sanford’s staff said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was with Chapur in Argentina.)

“I failed in that chapter of my life. I spent a year of my life apologizing,” he said. “At some point, you have to get up and say, ‘I am a flawed human being, but I feel I can make a difference based on a 20-year track record.’ ... The reality of the human experience is, we’re all going to fail at something.”

Sanford would much rather talk about his track record and bid for Congress than his personal life.

He said he’ll impose term limits on himself — although he has yet to decide how many terms he will serve if elected.

The three-term congressman left Congress in 2001, following a self-prescribed term limit. He then ran for governor and served for two terms, the maximum number allowed.

Sanford said Wednesday he is still not interested in being a “career politician” who casts votes to benefit himself instead of constituents. He points to several examples in which he said he has done that, including rejecting federal stimulus money in 2009 for the state’s schools. A majority of state lawmakers disagreed with his stance, and teachers protested. The state Supreme Court overturned Sanford’s veto.

“It wasn’t in my political best interest, but I thought it was what was best in our efforts to limit state government,” he said.

He had high praise for the Republican members of the S.C. congressional delegation, especially U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a York County Republican, who unsuccessfully proposed this week to cut $20.4 billion in federal spending to offset Hurricane Sandy relief.

“To me that’s a fairly sensible thought,” Sanford said. “You can’t spend more than you take in.”

Sanford said he will be a voice for similar common-sense conservative ideas of capping government spending, reducing debt and ensuring Social Security and Medicare will be there for future generations — ideas Beaufort County retirees care about.

“Our country’s future is at stake if we don’t get our hands around runaway government spending in Washington,” he said. “And given our nation’s long-term financial problems, we need more who have shown themselves to be leaders in standing up to the big spenders, regardless of party.”

Staff writer Andrew Shain contributed

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