The brief appearance of Mark Sanford’s Argentine fiancee, Maria Belen Chapur, at his victory party Tuesday became the immediate talk of Charleston.
But the question now is, how does her first public appearance at one of his campaign events play out with voters?
College of Charleston political scientist Kendra Stewart said Chapur’s presence probably helped more than it hurt.
“This would have been very risky at the beginning of the campaign but he had a pretty solid win,” she said today, “which sends a message that voters have moved on and gotten over the affair.”
Sanford said Chapur’s visit to Sticky Fingers in Mount Pleasant on Tuesday was a surprise to him, something Stewart runs counter to what campaigns normally seek to do by controlling every aspect.
“Usually these things are staged,” she said.
Additionally, Stewart said Chapur’s showing, coupled with the widespread media coverage afterward, also helps him with female voters - a crucial demographic that Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch hopes to win over.
“It’s easy to hate the ‘other woman’ when you don’t see her or know anything about her,” she said. “This gives a human face to the other woman. It will make it easier to identify with her and more difficult to judge her.”
Sanford beat fellow Republican Curtis Bostic in the GOP 1st Congressional District runoff by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin.
Chapur was the woman the formerly married Sanford traveled to see in Argentina in 2009, tainting his career as governor.