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Former SC Gov. Mark Sanford eyes US House bid

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who left public life two years ago after mysteriously disappearing to visit his then-mistress in Argentina, is poised to re-enter the political arena.

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Whether voters are ready to welcome Sanford back to politics is another issue.

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"It's absolutely absurd. He just has so much baggage. He was such an embarrassment to the state, we don't need that," said Gloria Day, a retired attorney in Charleston.

He avoided impeachment but was censured by the Legislature. He also had to pay more than $70,000 in ethics fines – still the largest in state history – after AP investigations raised questions about his use of state, private and commercial aircraft.

Others said Sanford's fiscal record is what's important, and Sanford is known as a libertarian-leaning ideologue who railed against spending and bucked Republican Party leaders before anyone even coined the tea party movement.

"Mark Sanford is a reliable fiscal conservative so I, like many conservatives, would be delighted to see him in the race," said Joanne Jones, vice chairman of the Charleston Tea Party, though she noted she'll wait to see the entire field before throwing her support behind a candidate.

Scott will be sworn in Jan. 3 to replace DeMint, who announced his resignation earlier this month to lead The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Scott, who would have to seek election in 2014, will become the state's first black U.S. senator and the first black Republican U.S. senator from the South since Reconstruction.

Candidates for Scott's seat must file by the end of January. Primaries will be held in March, with the general election in May.

State GOP Chairman Chad Connelly said as of Friday, 14 Republicans had expressed interest.

"Gov. Sanford getting in would certainly alter the dynamics. That list would go down significantly," he said.

Sanford has $1.2 million left in his state campaign coffers.

John Dietz of Daniel Island said the affair wouldn't affect his vote.

"He said he found his soul mate, and at one point in my life that's exactly how I felt. I empathized," said Dietz, a retiree who characterizes himself as a moderate.

Dietz said he was disappointed that Sanford could not work with his fellow Republicans in the Legislature.

"I did not necessarily agree with a lot of things he did politically," he said. "I'm very much neutral at this point."

Retired Presbyterian minister Dick Giffen of Mount Pleasant said he wouldn't support Sanford, but added that it was unrelated to the affair.

"He wasn't able to bring people together and get action done," Giffen said. "He didn't produce anything…. I really wasn't impressed with him."

Longtime Republican activist and donor John Rainey, who convinced Sanford to run for governor after leaving Congress, said Sanford's last six months in office, following his tearful press conference, were his most effective.

Rainey said he hopes Sanford re-enters politics.

"He's finally learned how to do it. Mark now understands the necessity of and art of compromise. It's not my way or the highway," said Rainey, who was chairman of the Board of Economic Advisors during Sanford's tenure.

Sanford's engagement to Chapur may improve his standing with voters.

"Think of all that's happened since 2009. That's old news," said Rainey, rattling off a list of political scandals. "Especially in the South, we're about redemption. I don't think he's got a problem."

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