This year, South Carolina will have a governor, two senators, and seven U.S. House members running for re-election. Most of them will face primary or general election opponents.
Mark Sanford won’t.
The USA Today headline said it best: “Once disgraced, Mark Sanford is now unopposed.” Less than a year ago, the headlines about Sanford looked very different: “GOP now bearish on Sanford’s chances in S.C.”
Eighteen days later, Sanford won a special election to return to Congress, winning 54 percent of the vote. The Democrats had spent some $2.6 million to elect Stephen Colbert’s sister instead. Come November, they won’t even have a candidate on the ballot.
“Lazarus raised,” writes Slate‘s Dave Weigel.
Until recently, the most common biblical allusion made to Sanford was his violation of the commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” As governor of South Carolina, Sanford disappeared from the state for an alleged hike along the Appalachian trail that turned out to be a clandestine trip down lover’s lane.
Sanford’s marriage and governorship were ruined. So, it was thought, were his reputation and political career.
Then the South Carolina Republican made a novel argument: “I absolutely failed in my personal life and my marriage but one place I never did fail was with the taxpayers.”
Nonsense, replied his critics. Those trips to see his mistress (now fiancee), including at least his fateful sojourn to Argentina, were on the taxpayers’ dime. But the voters of South Carolina’s first congressional district decided that he fought to spare them far greater expenses, like the $831 billion federal stimulus package and state budgets — often backed by fellow Republicans — that grew faster than inflation plus population growth.
As governor, Sanford issued over 100 budget vetoes in 2004 alone.
We know how Sanford’s first marriage vows turned out. But did he hold his side of the bargain with his constituents?
He was also one of just 94 congressmen to vote against the bipartisan Ryan-Murray budget, which traded away some of the hard-won sequestration budget cuts.
When President Barack Obama wanted to launch an expensive war in Syria on dubious national security grounds, Sanford was against it.