It's become something of a club, and not a particularly exclusive one at that: promising political figures with presidential aspirations knocked dramatically off course by marital infidelity. The latest member is Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina. In a bracing news conference June 24, the 49-year-old confessed to an affair with an Argentine woman following a bizarre six-day disappearance that grabbed national headlines when his staff and family claimed ignorance about his whereabouts. Aides later said Sanford was hiking along the Appalachian Trail, and seemed as surprised as everyone else when Sanford reappeared following a visit to Argentina. In disclosing the affair, Sanford also announced he would resign as head of the Republican Governors Association. His wife, who apparently had known of the liaison for months, later released a statement saying the two had agreed to a trial separation but expressing hope their marriage could be saved.
Born Marshall Clement Sanford on May 28, 1960, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to a prosperous heart surgeon. His family spent summers in Beaufort County, South Carolina, where Sanford moved at 18.
Graduated from Furman University in 1983 and earned a business degree from the University of Virginia. Worked in real estate in New York City after graduation. Started his own real estate firm in Charleston, S.C., in 1992.
Met his wife Jenny, a former investment banker, in the Hamptons when they both lived in New York. A millionaire heiress to a family fortune from the Skil Corp. power-tool company, she ran most of Sanford's campaigns and was a close adviser in the governor's office. They have four sons.
Won a U.S. House seat in 1994 with no political experience. Financed his campaign with $100,000 of his own money. Served three terms in Congress, where he repeatedly fought spending increases and pork-barrel spending.
Elected South Carolina's governor in 2002. Considered something of a quirky showman, he once sneaked two piglets into the state capitol to blast pork-barrel spending. The animals relieved themselves on the statehouse carpet, angering lawmakers, but the public approved of the stunt. Holds five-minute meetings with constituents as part of his "Open Door After Four" policy.
In 2005, named one of America's worst governors by TIME, which cited South Carolina's high unemployment rate and low bond rating.
Won a second term in 2006 against a Democratic rival he heavily outspent. Currently in his final term as governor owing to South Carolina's term limits.
Drew national attention, and many constituents' ire, by announcing he would reject about $700 million of the expected $2.8 billion in federal funding directed to South Carolina in the 2009 stimulus bill which he opposed. He later backed down after losing his fight in court.
A millionaire, Sanford is known for frugality. Former employees said he required them to use both sides of index cards and Post-it notes. In Congress, he slept on a futon in his office.
Enjoys "adventure traveling" and outdoor sports such as windsurfing.
"The bottom line is this: I have been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently, as I suspect these things do, in just a casual e-mail back and forth."
(AP, June 24, 2009)
"I don't know how this thing got blown out of proportion."
Upon returning to the media firestorm in the U.S., before confessing to his affair (The State, June 24, 2009)
"What I've said is consistently anything in life can happen. It is absolutely not my intent, not my goal and not my aim. All these people who make these grand plans are very much confused about the way life really works."
On a potential run for President (ABC News, April 2009)
"I think the fatal flaw of a lot of people in politics is that they want to be loved. I sleep like a baby at night."
Brushing off criticism for his stance on rejecting federal stimulus money (New York Times, April 3, 2009)
"Please sleep soundly knowing that despite the best efforts of my head my heart cries out for you, your voice, your body, the touch of your lips, the touch of your fingertips and an even deeper connection to your soul."
An e-mail to his lover (The State, June 24, 2009)
"We reached a point where I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect, and my basic sense of right and wrong. I therefore asked my husband to leave two weeks ago. This trial separation was agreed to with the goal of ultimately strengthening our marriage."
Jenny Sanford, in a statement released after her husband publicly admitted to his affair (AP, June 24, 2009)
"Lies. Lies. Lies. That's all we get from his staff. That's all we get from his people. That's all we get from him."
Republican state senator Jake Knotts (The State, June 24, 2009)
"I think it's refreshing in an age where there's so much bring-home-the-bacon for your district, he's been so disciplined with money."
Keven Cohen, a South Carolina radio-show host, on the governor's opposition to heavy government spending (New York Times, April 3, 2009)