Mark Sanford explains why he's running for Congress, how he will deal with criticism

01/15/2013 4:33 PM

01/15/2013 5:19 PM

Mark Sanford said he is running for Congress because the U.S. economy has reached a “day of reckoning” and that he should be judged on his political stances not his personal failings, the former S.C. governor said in online magazine interview.

Sanford also said his run for the seat he held for six years will delay his planned early summer wedding to Maria Chapur, the Argentinian woman he went to see while claiming to hike the Appalachian Trail while governor in 2009. The wedding likely will be in the late summer.

“I’m going to marry her, it’s just that simple,” he told the National Review Online in an article posted Tuesday.

Sanford will formally announce his run Wednesday. Filing begins Friday for the seat vacated when Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Tim Scott to succeed Sen. Jim DeMint, who resigned to run the Heritage Foundation. Primaries will be held March 19.

Efforts to reach Sanford on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Sanford told the National Review that he started get calls and emails about running for Congress after Scott was appointed to DeMint’s seat. People would stop him on the street in Charleston beg him to go back to Congress, he said.

“I thought my time in politics was over. That was a chapter of life, and I had moved on,” Sanford said in the interview. “I’m not saying it was God-ordained or anything like that, but a series of rather miraculous events have coincided here. Is there bit of trepidation? Absolutely. But at some point you listen to the voice inside and listen to those you care about the most and you make a decision, and this is the one I’ve made.”

Sanford said he conducted some polling that “said what my gut was telling me: that there was a road to victory worth pursuing. It wasn’t a gimme, but there was absolutely a road back.”

He said the polling was more positive than a statewide poll taken last month that found he had a 30 percent favorability rating.

While he expects opponents to raise the affair in the campaign, Sanford, 52, thinks voters are more interested in the economy and his experience in Congress from 1995-2001 and as governor from 2003-2011 to help fix the deficit.

“OK, the guy made a mistake,” he said. “Let’s look at the magnitude of that mistake and let’s judge it in the light of other areas where he hasn’t wavered, as a champion of the taxpayer and reforming government and common-sense solutions.”

Sanford told the National Review that he supports tying debt-ceiling increases to spending reductions and the Republicans in the House must “go back to what made party great and viable in the first place.”

“I think we’ve reached that day of reckoning,” he said.

Sanford joins a crowded GOP field that include state Sen. Larry Grooms of Berkeley County, state Rep. Chip Limehouse of Charleston County and Teddy Turner, the son of CNN founder Ted Turner.

In addition to his affair, Sanford expects opponents to raise the state-record $74,000 in fines over travel-related ethics charges that he said he settled to avoid spending his last 18 months in office doing nothing other than defending them.

Sanford said state lawmakers stopped fighting him after his “implosion” ended his chances at higher office. He suggested in the interview that helped South Carolina land the Boeing 787 jet plant in North Charleston -- the biggest economic development in state history.

Still, the former governor acknowledged the pain he caused his family with his affair -- saying the end of his marriage to his wife, Jenny, was “tragic in every sense of the word.”

“I certainly made mistakes,” he told the National Review. “Nobody’s going to bat a thousand. Tragically, a lot of people get divorced in the United States of America, and I suspect many of them have missteps along that path. All you can do is try to make it as right as you can with the people in your life and lift your head up and try to move forward.”

Jenny Sanford ended rumors of her running for Congress at a news conference on Monday. She was among Haley’s five finalists to appoint to the Senate before the governor chose Scott, a North Charleston insurer who just won his second term in Congress.

Mark Sanford said he has maintained a good relationship with his four sons.

“You struggle as a dad with letting them down, letting others down,” he said, “that whole chapter of life, with the whole notion of reconciliation and forgiveness.”

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