Now Mark Sanford will be the one who has to forgive. Exceeding all expectations, the former governor and Appalachian-trail hiker regained his old Congressional seat, whipping Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch by nine points in a May 7 special election.
His victory seemed so unlikely three weeks ago — when a report emerged that his ex-wife Jenny had filed a complaint that he violated their divorce agreement by showing up at her house without permission — that the National Republican Congressional Committee pulled its cash from his race. Local Republicans fled whenever reporters asked if they supported him.
Sanford was easy to underestimate. Political comebacks following flamboyant extramarital affairs are rare; he took out an ad in the newspaper comparing his campaign to the Alamo in ways that didn’t make sense. His few boosters didn’t help much: Cheating website AshleyMadison.com put his face on a billboard; Larry Flynt donated $2,600 to Sanford “because no one has done more to expose the sexual hypocrisy of traditional values in America today.” “I’m outnumbered right now,” he said in his Alamo ad, “but will fight to the end toward freedom and financial sanity in Washington so important to sustaining it.” But Sanford overcame it all, partly just by working harder. On the last day of the campaign, Sanford made ten stops; Colbert Busch didn’t make any.
Sure, having Sanford in the House is another target in the Democrats’ accusations of a war on women. Still, it was dumb of the GOP to abandon Sanford because South Carolina’s first district is way red and Sanford dominated the primary.
Sanford says he’s learned a lot about forgiveness and accepting other’s selfish choices. “After you’ve been through a complete cratering in life, you learn to let it go,” he said. The GOP better hope so, because he’s going to be around for a while.
This article has been updated