As former South Carolina Republican Governor Mark Sanford tries to return to office four years after a scandal, he will be doing so without help from his party’s House political organization.
The decision by the National Republican Congressional Committee to eschew aiding Sanford in a May 7 special election for a vacant House seat comes after news stories surfaced this week that Sanford’s ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, filed a complaint alleging her ex-husband had trespassed at her home in February. They divorced in 2010.
“Mark Sanford has proven he knows what it takes to win elections,” Daniel Scarpinato, a NRCC spokesman, said in an e-mail yesterday. “At this time, the NRCC will not be engaged in this special election.”
The NRCC’s decision to sit out the election is a setback for Sanford, 52, who could have benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars of political spending by the committee promoting him or attacking Democratic nominee Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a business development official and an older sister of political satirist Stephen Colbert.
House Majority PAC, a super-political action committee aiding Democrats, began airing television advertisements yesterday attacking Sanford.
Sanford is seeking to revive a political career derailed in 2009 when, while serving as governor, he publicly confessed to lying to his staff about hiking on the Appalachian Trail in the U.S. to mask a visit to Argentina to see his mistress. Sanford is now engaged to the woman.
On his Facebook page, Sanford said he was at his ex-wife’s house to watch the second half of the National Football League’s Super Bowl game on Feb. 3 with his 14-year-old son. He said he couldn’t reach his ex-wife, who has custody, to inform her beforehand.
“It’s an unfortunate reality that divorced couples sometimes have disagreements that spill over into family court,” he said, adding that he is “particularly curious” how sealed court records were leaked.
Sanford is slated to appear in the court on the matter two days after the special election. Lawyers for his ex-wife filed the trespassing complaint the day after the Super Bowl, alleging that his visit on that night and several other occasions violated their divorce settlement, according to the Associated Press.
The couple had four sons during their marriage.
Sanford served as South Carolina’s governor from 2003 to 2011, and was in the House from 1995 to 2001, representing a Charleston-area district that’s similar to the one he’s now seeking. Sanford was the leading vote-getter in a 16-candidate Republican primary last month and won a runoff election April 2.
Sanford and Colbert Busch are emphasizing fiscal restraint, including a reduction in federal budget deficits, in a district that tilts Republican and is South Carolina’s wealthiest and best-educated. The district was last represented by Republican Tim Scott, who resigned in January to become a U.S. senator.