Congressman-elect Mark Sanford had a rough week in mid-April, but this one is shaping up as a pretty good one.
Sanford won’t have to appear in Charleston County Family Court today because he reached a settlement Wednesday in a trespassing complaint lodged by his ex-wife Jenny.
As part of the deal, Sanford admitted to being in contempt of their divorce decree and agreed to pay $5,000 to defray her legal bills. He also agreed to keep off her property or face the prospect of appearing before a judge without any claim of immunity.
The agreement came a day after 1st Congressional District voters elected him by a 54 percent to 45 percent margin over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, and it resolves an issue that threatened to derail his comeback bid in mid-April.
On Feb. 3, Jenny Sanford found him leaving her home using his cellphone for a light. He said he was there to watch the Super Bowl with their youngest son, and had tried to reach her.
The accusation had an immediate impact on his campaign, with national Republicans cutting off their financial support. The event also sparked an increase in giving among Democrats to Colbert Busch and provided fresh fodder for attack ads.
Sanford had faced up to a year in prison, a $1,500 fine and as many as 300 hours of community service. Family Court Judge Jocelyn Cate said she would hold off any sentencing on Sanford’s contempt admission based upon his future compliance.
Despite his good week thus far, Sanford’s fellow Republicans in the state’s U.S. House delegation didn’t appear eager to talk about him. Only one of the five GOP members responded to requests for comment about Sanford’s win.
Rep. Tom Rice, who was elected to the new 7th District seat in November, praised Sanford’s fiscal conservatism.
“During these times of record debt and deficits, South Carolinians deserve to have a proven fiscal conservative like Mark Sanford representing their interests,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Mark Sanford as we both work to address our nation’s fiscal problems while still prioritizing needed infrastructure like I-73 and the dredging of the Georgetown and Charleston ports.”
The delegation’s lone Democrat, 6th District Rep. Jim Clyburn, released a statement that didn’t mention Sanford directly but praised Colbert Busch, calling her “an outstanding candidate and would have made a wonderful member of Congress, but the majority of the voters in the 1st District felt otherwise.
“I have always worked with all members of the South Carolina delegation for the betterment of South Carolina and its people,” Clyburn said.
Sanford did get some friendly words from the state’s two senators, both of them Republicans.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Sanford supporter, said he knew there would be jokes about Sanford’s personal baggage and return to Congress, and that he will be “a personality for a while.”
“But that will pass,” Graham said, adding, “What will replace that will be his work product. ... I hope he’ll come up here with the idea of getting something done.”
Sen. Tim Scott issued a statement Wednesday that repeated his lukewarm praise of Sanford, but expanded his focus to show a united front by the South Carolina delegation.
“Congratulations to Mark on a successful campaign,” the statement said. “This was a hard-fought contest, and now I look forward to working with the entire delegation as we continue our efforts to reduce spending and enact meaningful reforms to solve the tough problems our nation faces.”
The House Majority PAC, a group closely aligned with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, pumped $400,000 into the race to help Colbert Busch. The group likened Sanford to last year’s GOP Senate candidates Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana. Both made controversial comments about rape that cost them races many expected them to win.
“The House Republican caucus has added yet another ethically challenged embarrassment,” House Majority PAC Executive Director Alixandria Lapp said, adding that Sanford “will be an albatross around the neck of every Republican.”
Sanford would be the face of the GOP’s outreach to women voters, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel said. “Republicans now have to defend him and stand with him until Election Day.”
Sanford may leapfrog four GOP members of the S.C. House delegation — Trey Gowdy, Jeff Duncan, Mick Mulvaney and Tom Rice — in seniority, given his previous three terms from 1995-2001. The fifth Republican, Joe Wilson, has been in Congress since 2001.
It’s not known which committee assignments Sanford will receive. That will be decided as early as next week by the House Steering Committee.
Gov. Nikki Haley, one of the state’s only prominent Republicans to campaign with Sanford, issued a brief congratulatory statement Tuesday night through her spokesman, Rob Godfrey.
Godfrey said Haley “looks forward to working with him to bring jobs to the Lowcountry, fight job-killing unions, rein in out-of-control Washington spending, turn back Obamacare and strengthen the Charleston port.”
State GOP Chairman Chad Connelly said the election shows “the baggage of Obamacare and Barack Obama’s liberal policies are too much even for a credible Democratic candidate to overcome.”
The Green Party also released a statement commending its candidate, Eugene Platt, for giving its supporters a reason to vote. He received 680 votes, or 0.5 percent.
Both candidates kept a low profile a day after their special election.
Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said that Wednesday was a day to catch their breath and plan the transition. “We’ll be talking more about what it all means and next steps in short order,” he said.
Colbert Busch spent Wednesday with her family, including several who flew in this week for the election, her spokesman said.