Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Boring Academic Insights into South Carolina Republican Politics

Jenny Sanford. Staying True. New York: Ballantine Books, 2010.

This is the autobiography of the wife of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Her father and uncle was part owners of the Milwaukee Braves baseball team. Her husband was having an affair and they had separated so he could “get his head right” as he had claimed the affair was over. Unfortunately, he lied, the affair was continuing, and the press found out.

When they were engaged, Mark jokingly asked her to sign an agreement that her personal expenses, including any medical bills, would be capped at $100 per month. While it was a prank, it also showed the male chauvinism in his humor.

Mark became bored at work and decided to go into politics. He ran for Congress. Jenny saw him as an idealistic candidate campaigning against enormous odds of winning. They loaned the campaign $100,000, which included money shoe was inherited. Her sister-in-law made homemade campaign signs. The press considered Mark Sanford as a fringe candidate. He handed out fake billion dollar bills as a protest against Federal spending. He campaigned in favor of term limits and was the only candidate who promised to limit himself to three terms. A poll six weeks before the primary had him running in fifth place with 2% of those surveyed supporting him. He began campaigning on the fact him campaign had spent less money than had been raised. A poll a week before the primary had him in fourth place with the support of 14% of those surveyed.

Mark Sanford learned a lesson in politics and the media. A reporter asked how he would vote if a bill had funds for roads in his district but contained billions of dollars of wasteful projects. He replied he would vote against it. The press then reported he was against roads in his district. Sanford finished second with 19% compared to leader Van Hipp’s 31%. In South Carolina, a runoff is held if no candidate receives a majority. Sanford won the runoff with 52% of the vote.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee criticized Sanford for having been a professional goose exterminator in New Zealand. His opposition to increased spending for creating more police officer positions had him labeled as “pro-crime”. Sanford still won with 67% of the vote.

Jenny Sanford stayed in South Carolina to raise their three, and later four, boys. She writes about the strain it was living apart. Several members of a Congressional fellowship advised her not to get angry at Mark.

The author also learned that fundraising is a constant part of politics. Her husband was often away at fundraisers.

Mark Sanford was elected Governor. Jenny Sanford had to worry that her sons did not break things in the Governor’s Mansion. Her four year old son once became stuck in an elevator, which became a news item. She also learned to accept that the University of South Carolina Gamecocks sports teams made it appropriate for her sons to wear hats that read “COCKS”.

Over time, the author noticed her husband became more distracted. He would spend even his spare time away from his family. Jenny discovered the affair. He promised the affair was over just hours before he bought tickets to fly with his mistress to Argentina.

When Governor Sanford flew to Argentina, his staff as well as Jenny did not know where he was. Word that the Governor was missing hit the news. The affair became public.

Jenny Sanford used prayer and her faith to forgive her husband. She also moved out of the Governor’s mansion and left him.


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