Revisiting the Appalachian Trail: Mark Sanford Attempts Comeback

The disgraced South Carolina Republican who made the Appalachian Trail famous will formally launch his bid to re-enter politics today.

Former Gov. Mark Sanford will announce today — via press release, not a public event — that he’s running for the congressional seat left vacant by the appointment of Tim Scott (R-S.C.) to fill retired Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) seat. He first let supporters know of his intent in a Dec. 22 email.


Sanford previously served in the 1st District seat from 1995 to 2001. But he’s best remembered for his two terms as governor, and his 2009 disappearing act: though spokesman Joel Sawyer told the media that Sanford was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he dropped off the radar for six days, he was in fact carrying on an affair in Argentina with María Belén Chapur, whom he called his “soulmate.” Censured by the state assembly for using official funds to conduct his affair, he continued to make an effort to see Chapur and became engaged to her last year.

Sanford would also admit that he “crossed the lines” with other women during his 20-year marriage.

As a congressman, he stayed at the infamous C Street house with “The Family” fellowship. Two of his roomies, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.), were also eventually caught having extramarital affairs.

He was allowed to serve out the rest of his term after the affair came to light and stepped down in 2011. The first lady of South Carolina, Jenny Sanford, divorced the governor but ruled out a potential run against him for Scott’s seat.

Sanford told National Review that voters shouldn’t judge someone “by their worst day.”


“Some people said it was a witch hunt, some people said it was political payback time, I was a guy who kicked up a lot of dust during my time in Columbia,” he said, focusing not on the affair itself but the subsequent ethics charges. “…If you look past the headline, at the individual merits or demerits, a very different picture emerges.”

“As to the other part, the dissolution of a marriage, it’s tragic in every sense of the word. I certainly made mistakes. 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.”


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