Mark Sanford ran for Congress the first time vowing not to serve more than three terms.

As the former governor and three-term congressman attempts to get elected to the 1st Congressional District for a fourth time, he noted that, if elected, he would have more seniority than 60 percent of the current GOP caucus.

Sanford made the point this week as he and other candidates were asked what they would do to ensure that the federal government deepens Charleston’s port.

“It has direct bearing for committee assignment and leverage within the system,” Sanford said about his accrued seniority.

Asked how he felt about campaigning on that when he earlier advocated term limits, Sanford said, “A number of people have said to me — I really wasn’t thinking about it — that it’s something I should mention.”

If Sanford were to regain his seniority, that would show how Congress differs from South Carolina’s General Assembly, where Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell faced no prospect of regaining his seniority when he left his Senate seat.

But it’s not so simple on the federal level, and Sanford’s seniority ultimately would be determined by his conversations with the top GOP leadership there, said College of Charleston political science professor Jordan Ragusa.

“He may get the full credit for that time. He may get no credit, or he may get partial credit,” Ragusa said. “There’s no formal binding rule that says if you served X years, you automatically get your committee assignment or a committee chairmanship.”

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, endorsed Sanford this week and said voters should consider the seniority he would bring, particularly as the Republican party seeks to redefine itself in the wake of its 2012 losses.

“He’s not just going to be one of 435 voices, but one who is going to be heard because of that prior experience,” Davis said.