Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Sanford battles back from disgrace

Former state Mark Sanford gets a congratulatory hug on winning his way back into politics (AP)
Former state Mark Sanford gets a congratulatory hug on winning his way back into politics (AP)
Maria Belen Chapur, former mistress now fiancee of Mark Sanford (AP)

Four years after a scandal with his mistress derailed his political career, ex-Republican governor Mark Sanford once again holds a political office, winning back his old congressional South Carolina seat after a race in which he battled his past.

His resurrection was completed when he defeated Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in a district that has not elected a Democratic congressman in more than 30 years.

Mr Sanford saw his political career disintegrate four years ago when as governor he disappeared for five days, telling his staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. He returned to admit in a tearful news conference that he had been in Argentina with his mistress - a woman to whom he is now engaged. His wife and political ally, Jenny, divorced him. They have four sons.

With all the precincts reporting in the election, Mr Sanford had 54% of the vote to 45% for Ms Colbert Busch.

Mr Sanford, who will be 53 later this month, has never lost a race in three runs for Congress and two for governor. And he said before the votes were counted that if he lost this race, he would not run for office again.

"Some guy came up to me the other day and said you look a lot like Lazarus," he told a crowd of more than 100 cheering supporters at his victory celebration, referring to the man who, according to the Bible, Christ raised from the dead.

"I've talked a lot about grace during the course of this campaign," he said. "Until you experience human grace as a reflection of God's grace, I don't think you really get it. And I didn't get it before."

Mr Sanford thanked his oldest son and his fiancee, Maria Belen Chapur, who stood near him after flying from Argentina. The woman he has called his "soul mate" left immediately after his victory speech.

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