Statement: Sanford engaged to Argentine woman
Former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford confirmed Saturday night that he is engaged to marry Maria Belen Chapur, the “soulmate” for whom he sacrificed his once-promising political career.
Sanford reportedly popped the question Wednesday after huddling in the bathroom of a Buenos Aires restaurant waiting to surprise Chapur with a proposal, according to an earlier report from clarin.com, the website for Argentina's largest daily newspaper.
Sanford told The Post and Courier that parts of that report are inaccurate, but declined to give further detail.
“I don't want to open up that can of worms,” he said, noting that media attention was already building.
He said the only statement he has given to the media was one that was “short and sweet” to CNN. In that statement, he said:
“Yes, we are engaged, and I'm both happy and excited for what that means. I have long expressed my feelings for her, she's a wonderful person. My closest friends have met and love her, and I look forward to introducing her to still many more that have yet to do so.”
The Clarin report, in Spanish, said Sanford arrived at the Bella Italia Grill, a restaurant in the Palermo neighborhood of the Argentine capital, before Chapur.
The report said Sanford gave the waiter a bag containing an engagement ring and then hid in a bathroom for more than an hour, waiting for her to arrive.
When Chapur walked in, the waiter told her she had won a prize for being the 100th customer of the day. She opened the bag and found the ring, at which point Sanford emerged from hiding and asked her to marry him, according to the report.
Sanford, a former congressman who served as South Carolina's governor from 2003-11, had been considered a contender for the Republican presidential nomination until July 2009, when a scandal involving Chapur derailed his political aspirations.
That July, Sanford had been unable to be reached for almost a week. His staff told reporters the governor was hiking the Appalachian Trail.
When he returned, Sanford admitted he had been out of the country, in Argentina, having an extramarital affair with Chapur, a former Argentine television journalist.
Sanford and his ex-wife, Jenny, divorced in 2010. They have four sons.
Reached Saturday afternoon at her home on Sullivan's Island, Jenny Sanford said she had yet to speak with her ex-husband to confirm the report of his engagement, but that she was not surprised to hear the news.
“I've been preparing myself and my kids for it for three years,” she said. “I wish them well.”
Editor's note: Earlier versions of this story incorrectly stated the number of sons the Sanfords have. The Post and Courier regrets the error.