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Sanford victory shows adultery, lies can't trump party loyalty

May 08, 2013|By Robin Abcarian
  • Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford arrives to give his victory speech after winning back his old congressional seat in the state's 1st District in a special election.
Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford arrives to give his victory speech… (Rainier Ehrhardt / Associated…)

It would be too easy to make fun of the good Christian voters of South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District who saw fit to return their disgraced former Gov. Mark Sanford to the office he once held.

I won’t do it.

Well, maybe just a little.

Sanford, whose political rise was fueled by his conservative principles and focus on family values, did not stay true to his wife. But in the end, the voters in South Carolina’s 1st stayed true to him.

Oh sure, they weren’t too high on him in 2009. That was the year he ducked out to visit his Argentine mistress while claiming to be hiking the Appalachian Trail, then held the loopy-in-love press conference that has become the gold standard for on-camera political meltdowns. He finished out his term, but got slapped with the highest ethics fines violations in state history.

But then, unlike his actual spurned wife, Jenny Sanford, who complained to the court that her ex-husband attempted to enter her home in February without permission, the voters of South Carolina forgave his trespasses and took him back.

“Obviously, there's a vulnerability to me now that people respond to,"  Sanford told the Times’ Paul West in March.

In Tuesday’s election, he beat the staid Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of the comedian Stephen Colbert, by a comfortable 54% to 45% margin. 

At Sanford’s victory party Tuesday, Maria Belen Chapur, now his fiancee, stood onstage with him. In April, at his primary victory rally, she was onstage as well, as were two of his sons. Proving that he has learned little about how to handle the finer points of post-scandal parenting, the Washington Post reported   it was the first time the Sanfords' 17-year-old son had ever met the woman who helped destroy his parents’ marriage.

“That was indeed Bolton’s first intro and both boys were quite upset and visibly so,” Jenny Sanford told the Post. Ugh.

Turns out, you can be many things in the conservative reaches of South Carolina’s Low Country and still get elected to Congress.

  You can be a liar, an adulterer, a trespasser, and a pretty creepy dad.

But you cannot, under any circumstances, be a Democrat.

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Twitter: @robinabcarian
Email: robin.abcarian@latimes.com

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