Gov. Mark Sanford (R)
Elected: 2002, term expires Jan. 2011, 2nd term.
Born: May 28, 1960, Ft. Lauderdale, FL .
Education: Furman U., B.A. 1983; U. of VA, M.B.A. 1988.
Family: Married (Jenny); 4 children.
Elected office: U.S. House of Reps., 1994-2000.
Professional Career: Real estate investor, 1988-92; Owner, Norton & Sanford real estate investment firm, 1992–2002.
Republican Mark Sanford was elected governor of South Carolina in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. He was badly damaged by a scandal in 2009 in which the married Sanford admitted abandoning his duties for several days to rendezvous with his lover in Argentina.
|Mark Sanford (R)||601,868||(55%)|
|Tommy Moore (D)||489,076||(45%)|
|Mark Sanford (R)||160,238||(65%)|
|Oscar Lovelace (R)||87,043||(35%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2002 (53%)
Sanford grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the son of a heart surgeon. The family spent summers and vacations on a 3,000-acre farm in Beaufort County, once known as Coosaw Plantation, and moved there permanently when Mark was 18. He graduated from high school in South Carolina and from Furman University in Greenville and the University of Virginia business school. He worked in real estate investment in New York, where he met his wife, Jenny, a Midwesterner. In 1992, he started a real estate investment firm in Charleston. He lives in the town of Sullivan’s Island at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, and is perpetually tanned from windsurfing. In 1994, 1st District incumbent Rep. Arthur Ravenel ran for governor, and Sanford, with no political experience, ran for the U.S. House. His campaign was managed by his wife and financed by $100,000 of his own money. He campaigned as an outsider, and pledged to serve only three terms, to take no political action committee money, to vote for no tax increases and to refuse any salary increase until the federal budget was balanced. He finished second in the primary and then won the runoff 52%-48%. He carried the general election with 66% of the vote. In the House, Sanford voted consistently against spending increases and pork barrel spending, including projects for South Carolina.
After honoring his term-limit pledge, Sanford in 2002 was back in the state and launched a campaign for governor. Well-known and well-liked in Charleston but unknown in the rest of the state, he set about getting better acquainted. His opponent in the Republican primary was Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler, originally from Cherokee County east of Greenville-Spartanburg, who was traveling around the state in his trademark red pickup truck. Peeler had backed George W. Bush for president in 2000 and was supported by most of the state Republican establishment, although former Gov. Carroll Campbell endorsed Sanford. Attorney General Charlie Condon, who had won much publicity from his conservative stands on hot-button issues, also got into the primary contest. The three Republicans called for major changes in taxes and spending. Sanford proposed phasing out the income tax over 18 years and making up for fluctuations in revenues with a transition fund established by a sales tax on gas. He also called for government vouchers for private school tuition. Sanford raised more money and ran more ads than the other two. Peeler led in polls in the run-up to the June 11 primary, and many expected that Condon would cut into Sanford’s Lowcountry base. Instead, Sanford finished first with 39% of the vote, just ahead of Peeler’s 38%; Condon was far behind with 16%. Still, Sanford carried only 11 of 46 counties, and it was expected that more of the culturally conservative Condon’s votes would go to Peeler in the June 25 runoff. But the race was not defined ideologically. Peeler criticized Sanford for votes on the breast cancer stamp, military housing and supporting military action; Sanford said these issues were taken out of context and were “negative.” Sanford won 60%-40%.
In the general election, Sanford challenged Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges, who had upset Republican incumbent David Beasley in 1998. Hodges’ chief plank was a lottery to pay for college scholarships, and a call for more funding for school construction and all-day kindergarten. Hodges also played a major role in getting the Legislature to vote in 2000 to take the Confederate flag off the dome of the Capitol and put it up on the grounds, which became controversial among people who favored prominent display of the flag. Hodges’ biggest success was passage of his lottery bill in 2001. His job ratings were not particularly high, and Republicans were confident they could beat him in this largely Republican state.
In the campaign, Hodges played up his modest background and called Sanford a wealthy Charleston plantation owner from south Florida. But Hodges had embarrassments of his own. One of his ads attacked Sanford for having voted “against programs for disabled kids.” But then it was revealed that Hodges had transferred $300,000 from a fund for emotionally disturbed children to the operating account for the governor’s office. Hodges was also embarrassed by his failure to keep an oft-repeated promise to block the shipment of spent plutonium to the Savannah River Site for reprocessing. In 2002, a federal judge ordered Hodges not to block the shipment, and Hodges backed down on his promise to stand in the road in front of the convoy if necessary. Hodges had more money, but Sanford seemed to attract more positive attention. Dressed usually in khakis and a plaid shirt, he emphasized change and getting away from politics as usual. In November, Sanford won 53%-47%. Metro Charleston and the coast, which had voted for Hodges in 1998, this time went 55%-45% for Sanford, as did metro Columbia-Aiken. The Greenville area gave Sanford 60%. Hodges carried the rest of the state by only 55%-45%.
As governor, Sanford defied convention. He instituted an open-door policy that allowed citizens to line up for five-minute chats with the governor. Sanford wondered out loud whether he should quit the Air Force Reserve, which he joined in 2002 just prior to running for governor, lest he be called to active duty. He decided to stay in, and he was not called up, although he did spend two weeks in training.
He called on the Legislature for major changes: abolishing the elective offices of secretary of state, treasurer, comptroller, adjutant general, superintendent of education and agriculture commissioner, and putting their functions under the governor; putting the state universities, accustomed to lobbying for themselves, under a single board of regents; and enacting tax-paid private school vouchers for children in failing schools. Sanford managed to lower the drunken driving blood alcohol threshold to .08, to win campaign finance changes that added more transparency and to bring the Division of Motor Vehicles directly under the governor’s office. But he failed to enact any of his major initiatives. That was the beginning of his strained relationship with the Republican-controlled Legislature. South Carolina’s governorship is constitutionally weak and the Legislature is relatively strong. Sanford struggled to work within these confines. After the failure of his plan in 2003 to swap a phaseout of the income tax for an increase in the cigarette tax, Sanford promised to visit districts of lawmakers from both parties who did not support the plan and he vetoed bills that were routinely signed in the past. He angered legislators by commissioning a poll to measure his personal popularity against theirs. In 2004, Sanford again pursued an ambitious agenda, calling for workers’ compensation reform, an increase in the number of charter schools, and a 15% reduction in income taxes, offset by a 5-cent sales tax on lottery tickets and a 61-cent tax increase on a pack of cigarettes. The General Assembly, primarily the Senate, again balked at his proposals, and Sanford did little to persuade them. He issued 106 budget vetoes to cut spending and the House overrode 105 of them. He also vetoed an economic development bill offering tax incentives to biotech and medical research companies. Though he once supported the economic development initiative, he objected to various projects that legislators tacked onto the final bill. The Legislature overwhelmingly overrode his veto. He angered legislators in the final week of the five-month legislative session by sneaking two piglets into the State House to symbolize the legislative appetite for pork barrel spending. He said the pigs’ names were “Pork” and “Barrel.” The pigs defecated on the carpet. But the public, it turned out, loved the stunt.
In 2006, Sanford ended up vetoing the entire budget, rather than utilize his line-item veto power. Legislators were faced with the dilemma of either overriding the veto or shutting down state government. They chose to override the veto. Time magazine in November 2005 named Sanford one of the three worst governors in the nation, a stinging rebuke that listed as evidence Standard & Poor’s lowering of South Carolina’s bond rating, a 6.3% unemployment rate and the state’s losing bid for a $500 million Airbus plant. Sanford dismissed the story as the product of a liberal magazine, and pointed to National Review article that had earlier described him as “one of the best new governors in the country.” The libertarian Cato Institute had also given him high ratings for his fiscal record. But the Time story nonetheless provided fuel to his many critics on the eve of his 2006 re-election campaign.
Sanford drew opposition in the primary from physician Oscar Lovelace, who criticized Sanford’s inability to get along with the Legislature. Sanford won 65%-35%, but there were troubling signs. He lost two counties, including the Republican stronghold of Lexington County where voters were angered over his veto of a bill that would have created a new heart surgery center there. More ominously, the underfunded Lovelace had won more than a third of the primary vote. Republican hostility to Sanford still ran high weeks after the primary. Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts of Lexington County sought to get on the November ballot as a petition candidate, a maneuver which, by splitting the Republican vote, might have led to a Democratic victory. But in mid-July he dropped his bid.
The Democratic nominee was state Sen. Tommy Moore of Aiken County, a veteran legislative dealmaker who touted his ability to bring people together. Sanford framed the race to the The State newspaper as a choice between his outsider approach and the state’s business-as-usual legislative culture. “I’ve not been a part of Columbia, and the way that things work around here. At times, that’s been to my detriment.” Moore called for increased economic development in rural areas and he focused on public education, although without much specificity. Sanford called for government restructuring, spending restraint, tax cuts and merit pay for teachers. Sanford raised over $8 million, compared to Moore’s $3 million. On Election Day, Sanford won 55%-45%. Moore won in the Midlands and metro Columbia, but Sanford carried his Lowcountry base and won large margins in the Greenville and Spartanburg Upstate areas. He managed to win Lexington County 59%-41, but with a diminished share from 2002 when he won 66%.
This was not the kind of sweeping victory that draws notice outside a state’s border, but Sanford’s fiscal record was popular with some national conservatives and there was still mention of him as a possible presidential candidate in 2008. Sanford made no moves in that direction. Sanford continued to raise his national profile during his second term, appearing as a frequent guest on cable news channels, and rumors persisted that he was in the mix to be Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate. Then, during a July 2008 interview on CNN’s “Late Edition,” host Wolf Blitzer asked Sanford for distinctions between McCain and President George W. Bush on the economy. Sanford drew a blank for several seconds, before citing the North American Free Trade Agreement as a difference between the two. Blitzer pointed out Bush and McCain agreed on free trade. The clip of the Sanford’s flub replayed for days, probably sinking Sanford’s chances of joining the ticket. In 2009, he took over the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association.
The 2007 budget session with legislators was no smoother than their past negotiations. Sanford proposed a $6.5 billion budget that allocated more money for schools but also included an increase in cigarette taxes and $205 million in income tax cuts. Notable were his $92 million cuts to state health and education research programs. More than a third of his budget was dedicated to paying down state debt. Both the state House and Senate drastically slashed the income tax breaks Sanford wanted, and essentially ignored Sanford’s pleas for fiscal discipline, sending him a $7.4 billion budget full of money for local projects. Sanford sent back 243 vetoes against $167 million in spending, but the Legislature overturned all but 15 of them. They also overturned his veto of a program extending health insurance to 100,000 poor children. The governor had argued qualifying families should be required to shoulder more of the cost. Sanford had also pushed legislators to tackle immigration reform that year, although no consensus bill emerged. And the Legislature also killed Sanford’s proposal to reorganize state government to make most cabinet-level offices appointed rather than elected.
Sanford’s 2008 budget aimed to cut spending by $326 million while again cutting income taxes and raising cigarette taxes. He also called for adding 300 state prison guards and troopers, saving more land from development, expanding college scholarships and making kindergarten available to 4-year-olds. The Legislature this time upped his budget only slightly, to $7 billion, and Sanford issued only 69 vetoes. He again axed funding for children’s health insurance, along with rejecting money for rural hospitals, hydrogen fuel research, teen pregnancy prevention and indigent defense aid. Lawmakers sustained only 13 of Sanford’s vetoes, restoring funds for children’s health insurance, drug and alcohol programs and funds for public defenders. Sanford charged lawmakers with passing an unbalanced budget and threatened to bring them back in session to deal with additional budget cuts. “It is an extreme problem,” he told The State. “It might solicit a lawsuit.” After Sanford asked state agency heads to prepare budget cuts, legislators complied. In 2008, Sanford also opposed a national directive from the Department of Homeland Security to comply with a national identification program, known as Real ID. Sanford wrote to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, calling the program expensive and unnecessary.
In early 2009, President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus bill presented Sanford with a perfect pulpit to preach against government spending. Sanford and conservative Sen. Jim DeMint became the ringleaders of economic conservatives who opposed boosting spending as a way to forestall a further slowdown in the recessionary economy. “I think it’s a gut-check vote on sort of this moral issue of, at the end of the day, borrowing money and printing money to pay for (a) current dilemma, but handing the tab to the next generation … to your kids and grandkids, is wrong,” he told The State. Sanford opposed any additional spending in the state, even as layoffs statewide mounted. When South Carolina registered the nation’s third highest unemployment rate, Sanford begrudgingly agreed to apply for a $146 million federal loan to continue unemployment benefits, although he had maintained for weeks he would not. Members of his own party were aghast that Sanford might allow unemployment payments to expire. “I can’t believe anybody would be this heartless, and create such a heartless act on these people,” the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee told The New York Times.
Sanford then hinted he would not accept federal stimulus funds. U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat, inserted a provision into the stimulus bill allowing state legislators to accept federal aid if a governor fails to act within 45 days. State House and Senate leaders urged Sanford to accept the funds. But Sanford remained steadfast. As state legislators began to draft a budget around the anticipated share of the stimulus funds, Sanford announced in March 2009 that he would accept the money only if Obama allowed the state to use it to pay down debt. “Once that money runs out, South Carolina will be in a deeper hole than if it chose to deal with budget deficits now,” Sanford wrote to lawmakers. State Democrats charged that Sanford’s move was a political ploy to advance his own career, and the Obama administration denied Sanford’s request.
As the deadline to accept the funds loomed, South Carolina’s jobless rate rose to 10.4%, the second worst in the nation behind Michigan. Sanford asked the Obama White House if the state could use the money to preserve jobs for teachers, police and public employees along with debt reduction. His request was again denied. Meanwhile, South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster said he agreed with a Congressional Research Service report that cast doubt on whether the state Legislature could legally circumvent Sanford. Just hours before the deadline to accept the funds, Sanford became the last governor to request the money. But he said he would continue to try to use the funds for preserving education and law enforcement jobs. Sanford still controlled when the state tapped the funds, and he remained adamant that he would do so only if the Legislature agreed to pay down debt.
In their legislative session, lawmakers passed a budget forcing Sanford to accept the stimulus money, and Sanford promptly filed a federal lawsuit against the General Assembly claiming its mandate was unconstitutional. Petitions from two South Carolina students and the South Carolina Association of School Administrators made their way to the state Supreme Court in early June 2009, each arguing that the state’s educational system was being harmed by Sanford’s refusal to accept the federal funds. The court ruled unanimously that Sanford had to apply for the $700 million, finding that the General Assembly had the sole authority to appropriate funds. Sanford then agreed to drop his lawsuit and apply for the funds. In his application, Sanford wrote that Obama’s stimulus bill was a “monumentally terrible idea.”
In 2008, Sanford told The State he was considering a career outside of politics when his term ends in 2010, and he probably sealed that fate with a series of decisions he made in mid-2009. On June 22, a Monday, reports surfaced that Sanford had not been at work for several days. As legislators wondered where he was, and whether he had transferred power in his absence, their alarm gained credence when Sanford’s wife, Jenny, told reporters she didn’t know where her husband was, but that he was probably off working on a writing project. Sanford, the father of four young sons, also had missed Father’s Day, on June 21. Then, Sanford’s spokesman reported that the governor was in the mountains hiking the Appalachian Trail, leaving him unreachable, but that he would cut short his trip and return to work on Wednesday in response to the media attention his absence was generating.
On Wednesday morning, a reporter for The State, acting on a tip, staked out Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and confronted Sanford as he got off a flight from Argentina. Sanford admitted then that he had not been hiking, but had been in Buenos Aires. Back in Columbia that afternoon, Sanford divulged the details of his mysterious disappearance. At a rambling press conference, Sanford admitted that he been carrying on an extramarital affair with a woman from Argentina and that he had spent the previous several days with her. His unscripted comments were laced with childhood memories, apologies to his family, and biblical references. But he made clear he intended to remain as governor, although he did resign as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Later in the day, The State published intimate email exchanges between Sanford’s mistress, Maria Belen Chapur, and the governor. A few days later, Sanford gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he called Chapur his “soul mate.” Becoming emotional several times, he told the AP, “This was a whole lot more than a simple affair. …It’s a love story, a forbidden one, a tragic one but a love story at the end of the day.” He also admitted to having “crossed lines” with other women during his marriage but underscored he had not had sex with them.
More than half of the Republicans in the state Senate called for Sanford’s resignation. Several members of the state’s congressional delegation either publicly or privately urged him to step down as well. In July, the state Republican Party elected to censure Sanford rather than to call for his resignation. Sanford was determined to finish out his second term, and it appeared he would be able to survive the scandal. Officials determined that state funds were not used for the trip, although Sanford did reimburse the state $3,300 for his air fare for a 2008 trade mission to Buenos Aires, during which he saw Chapur. Also working in Sanford’s favor was the fact that legislators were not eager to see him replaced by Republican Lt. Gov. André Bauer, who was known for unpredictable behavior himself. Thirdly, Jenny Sanford, who had gained great public sympathy during the scandal, issued a statement saying she would consider reconciling with the wayward governor.