First lady Jenny Sanford does not live in the Governor's Mansion anymore, but she opened the historic home to holiday visitors Thursday, fulfilling one of her annual duties as first lady.
In her first public appearance in the capital city since her husband, Gov. Mark Sanford, admitted to an affair with an Argentine woman, the first lady greeted a steady stream of South Carolinians who had come to check out the mansion's wreaths, Christmas trees and lights.
Wednesday, they can check her out on TV. She'll be featured in a Barbara Walters special on the most fascinating people of 2009.
Jean Traynham of Irmo already has her TV programmed to record it.
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"I admire her very much," Traynham said as she toured the mansion. "I think she must be a wonderful mother and she's been good for our state."
Thursday's open house provided several women the chance to show support for the first lady, now separated from her husband and living with the couple's four sons on Sullivans Island.
Some mansion visitors said the Georgetown-educated mother of four is inspirational because of her refusal to stand by her man in the wake of his confession to the year-long tryst.
Others appreciated her dignity and focus on her children in the wake of the scandal.
Some, like Thelma Paul of West Columbia, just wanted the first lady to know she's always welcome in the capital city.
"We are glad to see her here in Columbia," Paul said as she and her family made their way through the mansion. "She's a beautiful lady. And that's the important part - a lady."
Jenny Sanford - sans her wedding ring - seemed comfortable among the crowd, shaking hands, posing for photos and even taking a few questions from reporters.
"It's such a great tradition and a great kickoff to Christmas," Jenny Sanford said of the decorations provided each December by members of the Columbia Garden Club. "I've talked to people who (said) this is their first time here and people who come every year."
Gov. Sanford also attended the event, arriving about two hours after it began - and after the crowd had mostly thinned out. After the governor gave his wife a quick kiss, the two spent much of the night about 10 feet apart, entertaining separate groups of visitors.
Mere hours before the open house began, a group of House lawmakers met a few blocks away at the State House, weighing whether the governor should be impeached.
Jenny Sanford has made it clear her priorities have shifted away from her husband's career despite the fact that she ran his congressional and one of his gubernatorial campaigns and served as a key advisor.
"His career is not a concern of mine," she told reporters shortly after news broke of her husband's affair. "He'll have to worry about that. I'm going to worry about my family and the character of my children."
In August, she made a very public display of moving herself and the couple's four children out of the Governor's Mansion.
Hoisting boxes into the backs of their SUVs, Jenny Sanford and a group of female friends seemed the ultimate symbol of girl power.
Some now speculate the politically savvy wife is prepping for a political run of her own.
Both the first lady and her friends have waved off the rumors.
At the very least, Jenny Sanford is taking on a new role as a highly visible public figure.
In addition to the Walters TV special, she's penning an inspirational memoir due out in April.
She has set up a Web site and appeared in the national magazine Vogue. She also has trademarked her name to protect herself and to prevent others from profiting from it, she said.
As for her marriage, the future remains murky.
The first lady said she and her children plan to spend Christmas in Florida, where her family lives.
The governor would only say Thursday night he "plans to have a happy holiday season."