Mark Sanford Wins, But What’s Behind The Appalachian Trail Cheater’s Comeback?

Mark Sanford won his bid on Tuesday to become the next representative for South Carolina’s first Congressional district. A special election in a stoutly Republican district that hasn’t gone for the Democrats in 30 years wouldn’t normally merit much national attention. But Sanford is comedy gold, and you can’t expect the press to ignore that.

Even with trespassing charges against Sanford waiting to be answered in court on Thursday, the former South Carolina governor easily defeated Democratic opponent Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who is political satirist Stephen Colbert’s sister.

For the rest of the nation, the great thing about Mark Sanford is that he’s a marvelous distraction from the whackadoo politicians in our own states. The governor first rose to worldwide fame when he disappeared to hike the Appalachian trail — except, as the endless wits joked, he was really carrying on with Argentine tail.

Then-wife Jenny Sanford dumped him, and Sanford has since openly acknowledged his beautiful mistress, Maria Belen Chapur. State officials hit him with 37 ethics charges related to trips he took with public funds during his time as governor.

For a time, it looked as if Sanford’s career in politics was over. However, the new Mark Sanford win means that he’s b-a-c-k.

But why?

Sanford told Yahoo News that he thanks God, who apparently is always ready to forgive a cheatin’ dog:

“I’ve talked a lot about grace over the course of this campaign. And until you’ve experienced human grace as a reflection of God’s grace, I don’t think you really get it and I didn’t get it before. I get it in a way that I never have before and I want to publicly acknowledge God’s role in this.”

Politico blogger Alex Isenstadt had a more cynical explanation for how Sanford took the conservative district, where he has served before. Isenstadt said that Sanford literally launched a straw man — or in this case, a cardboard woman — attack on Busch:

The “turning point in the race came two weeks ago, when Sanford held a mock debate with a cardboard cutout of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, implying that the California Democrat — persona non grata in conservative South Carolina — was a stand-in for his Democratic opponent.”

By that analysis, it’s one thing to cheat on your wife, have still-outstanding court charges to answer two days after an election, and to use public funds for your jaunts.

It’s quite another to be a Democrat and possibly a liberal one with ties to show business.

I appreciate comments from all sides. What’s your take on the Mark Sanford win?

[Mark Sanford photo by John Wollwerth /]