Political Animal


January 11, 2013 4:03 PM Family Circus in South Carolina

By Ed Kilgore

When Nikki Haley bent to national party pressure (or at least that’s my theory) and picked Low Country congressman Tim Scott to temporarily replace Jim DeMint, she created, consciously or not, a potential circus of a special election to replace him in the House. At the center is her former mentor and immediately predecessor as governor, the noted hiker and Latin American tourist Mark Sanford—and possibly his former wife.

Yes, Mark Sanford has reportedly decided to run for the seat he held before becoming governor.

Thanks to name recognition if nothing else, Sanford would begin the campaign as a presumptive favorite to make a primary runoff spot in a very crowded field (at least four state legislators are running). Unless, that is, his ex-wife Jenny jumps into the race (qualifying doesn’t end until the end of next week). The story circulating in SC is that Mark Sanford asked Jenny to run his campaign, as she did in the past. The idea did not go over very well. Sanford is now engaged to Maria Belen Chapur, the Argentian “soul-mate” the very married governor was visiting when he disappeared from his state back in 2009 after telling his staff (and presumably his family) he was going hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Jenny Sanford would undoubtedly stomp her ex-husband if she chose to run. But even if voters in the 1st congressional district avoid that tabloid-dream scenario, the contest should be grotesque fun. The field could soon include former SC Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, who resigned his office in 2007 after pleading guilty to cocaine distribution charges. Ravenel also said he was renouncing U.S. citizenship in 2011 after discovering that as an ex-felon he had lost his right to own guns. Guess that was just another broken promise by a politician.

All in all, looks like a fine primary contest for the Party of Family Values.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Josef K on January 11, 2013 4:07 PM:

    the contest should be grotesque fun

    "Night of the Living Dead" was grotesque fun.

    This is just plain old comedy.

  • exlibra on January 11, 2013 4:17 PM:

    Theatre of the absurd... Where's Ionesco when you need him?

  • boatboy_srq on January 11, 2013 4:18 PM:

    Wow. Ex-American Thomas "Snort" Ravenel and Mark "Appalachian Tail" Sanford, both back in races for public office. How typically Teahadist to push the ones with the biggest beams in their eyes.

    One develops a little less disrespect for QEotP when observing her fellow travelers: at least she and her First Dude, and (thus far) most of her offspring, aren't visibly guilty of anything but poor judgment, premarital snuggling and unintentionally humourous word salad.

    Captcha: scene. nypopl. It sure will be an eye-popping scene on the campaign trail in SC.

  • Peter C on January 11, 2013 4:39 PM:

    Well, I hope the Democrats will nominate their own candidate (instead of being saddled with a plant like in the Senate race of 2010).

    We really need to contest these elections so the poor inhabitants have a sane choice on the ballot.

  • MuddyLee on January 11, 2013 4:41 PM:

    As a democrat voter here in SC, I am hoping for one of Strom Thurmond's children to also enter the race for the "Sanford seat" (Mark held the seat, but Jenny supposedly was the brains in the operation) - we might as well make it as crazy as possible. I actually suspected that Gov Haley might invite Sarah Palin to move to SC so that she could be appointed to the Senate as a nice payback for her endorsement of Haley. Also, Haley's husband is being sent to Afghanistan for a year (he's in the reserves) - this isn't nice, but remember the affair accusations when she was running for governor. Stay tuned.

  • c u n d gulag on January 11, 2013 4:56 PM:

    Hmm... South Carolina, huh?
    Sanford v. Sanford.

    Someone remind me, is it that the Republicans are the party of "Family Values," or, "Families Values?"

    Ya gotta love that Mark had the cojones to ask his ex-wife to run his campaign.
    As Michele Bachmann said - "CHOOOOOOTSPAH!"

  • Barbara on January 11, 2013 5:43 PM:

    One gets the feeling, even, that the Sanford's marriage was a business arrangement by the end. Funny, Mark apparently forgot to tell Jenny that was the case. Sad, I know, they have four children but it's people like them that make me realize how intoxicating power and politics are for some -- who in their right mind would want to subject their family to this kind of circus having so recently gone through an exhibition in humiliation?

    It also gives the lie to the business uber alles braying of the Republicans -- both of the Sanfords have plenty of dough. Why don't they find something more productive to do with it than run for office?

  • Rick B on January 11, 2013 8:11 PM:


    Mark Sanford is exhibiting the symptoms of a sociopath. He considers himself entitled and does not have any awareness of how his actions impact on others.

    Here's a list of the symptoms:

    Interpersonal traits

    Glib and superficial
    Egocentric and grandiose
    Lack of remorse or guilt
    Lack of empathy
    Deceitful and manipulative
    Shallow emotions

    Antisocial lifestyle

    Poor behavior controls
    Need for excitement
    Lack of responsibility

    Consider these and compare them to Mark Sanford's known history. Or to the history of Florida's Rick Scott, for that matter.

    Teabagger's forever!! Con men and sociopaths, all.

  • Steve Karger on January 12, 2013 6:51 AM:

    This reminds me of the quote about South Carolina before the Civil War. "South Carolina is too small to be a republic and too large to be an insane asylum."

  • Ron Byers on January 12, 2013 9:12 AM:

    Does this story scream plot of a modern TV series or what. Lawrence O'Donnell, should he choose to write it could call it, "Revenge meets the Good Wife."