Mark Sanford on career-politician charge: ‘I don’t think anybody would describe Thomas Jefferson as a career politician’

Mark Sanford says he’s not a career politician, as any student of Thomas Jefferson would know.

The former South Carolina governor, who left the governor’s mansion at the end of his term in January 2011, is running for his old seat in Congress in his first return to elective politics since the end of his gubernatorial career was mired in scandal when it was revealed he was having an affair with a woman in Argentina, who is now his fiancée.

With near-universal name recognition in the district and a large campaign fund, Sanford is the front-runner in the 16-person Republican primary field to replace former Republican Rep. Tim Scott, who was appointed to the Senate when former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint resigned his seat to become president of the Heritage foundation.

With front-runner status comes the privilege of being the punching bag of every other candidate in the race. His opponents have criticized his personal transgressions, his disappearance as governor that led to the discovery of his infidelity and the state’s financial issues when he was in the governor’s mansion. They say that this run for office is a violation of the term-limits pledge he made when he first ran for the congressional seat in 1994.

But perhaps the most vehement attack on the former governor has been that he is a career politician, a dirty slur in today’s political scene.

Sanford rejects the idea that having spent 14 of the past 18 years in some kind of elected federal office makes him a “career politician.” Rather, in a phone interview with The Daily Caller, he likened his participation in politics to that of Thomas Jefferson.

“You know, I went to the University of Virginia, and everybody becomes a big fan of Thomas Jefferson there. He spent 34 years of his life in and out of public life. I don’t think anybody would describe Thomas Jefferson as a career politician,” Sanford said.

“What they would describe him as is a guy who cared deeply about his country and at different points along the way was involved, and at different points along the way was back at his farm, or his academic village, or other places.”

The former governor also takes issue with the idea that his current run for Congress violates the pledge he made when he first ran for Congress to serve only three-terms in the House, which he did from 1995 to 2001.

“I did exactly what I promised,” he said, sounding somewhat indignant. “I mean I said, ‘If I get elected, I will not sit more than three terms, and I will go home.’ And I did just that.”