U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford's remarkable career turnaround after what the Post and Courier's Schuyler Kropf called the former governor's "eerie, teary confession watched around the world" in 2009 has been the subject of much conversation among S.C. politicos after reflection pieces in several news outlets have begun to trickle out.
To recap: In 2009, then-Gov. Sanford had been out of the public view for several days after the legislative session ended. Media inquiries into his whereabouts were first met with hedging by his staff, followed by a story line that Sanford was off hiking the Appalachian Trail.
In reality, Sanford had left the country, flying to Argentina to meet with his then-mistress, a woman with whom he'd had a relationship for a year.
Upon returning to the United States, Sanford was met at the airport in Atlanta by a reporter from The (Columbia) State newspaper, quickly triggering his afternoon confession inside the cavernous first-floor lobby of the Statehouse. The teary confession that followed is one of the state's most bizarre and memorable political moments.
"I'm a bottom-line kind of guy. It's going to hurt. I'm going to let the chips fall where they may," he said as he extensively detailed his affair with an Argentine woman, later identified as former television reporter Maria Belen Chapur. She is now his fiancee.
Sanford's election to the U.S. House of Representatives several years later has baffled many around the country. Sanford has said he's grateful. "I've been blessed to experience human forgiveness and human grace and kindness," he said. "You can go down the list."
A recent New York Times piece reflecting on his turnaround caught Sanford "relieving himself" in the woods at his Coosaw Plantation, while also describing his personal transformation. Sanford told NYT: "I've been to a place where nobody wanted to even acknowledge your name. You go through that, and I mean, you appreciate people, events, circumstances, things in a way that I never did before in my life."
And a piece from McClatchy also said that Sanford has been humbled enough to change his ways.
James Rosen writes: Sanford, who noted several times in a recent interview that he's the only former governor in the House, no longer insists on doing everything his way and only his way. The onetime loner now watches college football games on Saturdays with other lawmakers. In his hometown of Charleston, and in the surrounding 1st Congressional District, he lingers with constituents, trades small talk and shows interest in their families and their lives.
Sanford confounds many. But his conservative, often libertarian-leaning principles have helped maintain his support in and around Charleston, meaning we'll be sure to hear more from him going forward.
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