Cover Story: Gov. Mark Sanford admits affair

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, SC (WBTV) - South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford shocked his state on Wednesday, admitting to an extra-marital affair with a woman from Argentina.  In our Cover Story, PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson looks back at Sanford's start and his political future.

Sanford's used to the spotlight on him he's gotten a lot of attention. Especially with the stimulus saga.  But this -- was definitely a shocker.

You could hear the air go out of the room when he dropped the bomb at today's news conference.

Everybody wanted to ask Sanford about his mysterious disappearance the last week.. it turned into something much bigger.

An affair by a man who touted his wife and family.

Mark Sanford has always marched to a different drummer.

Five years ago he brought two live pigs into the State House.. to show how lawmakers he said were acting over the state budget.. like pigs.

Members of his own party.. Republicans in the majority weren't amused.

Prior to becoming governor Sanford served three terms in the U.S. House.

He was known to sleep on the floor of his office at the Capitol.

Often would be one of only two members of Congress who would vote against bills that otherwise got unanimous support.

Sanford upended an incumbent governor.. Jim Hodges, Democrat from Lancaster county.. in 2002, campaigning on a pledge to shake up state government.

"I think we've laid out a case for change," Sanford said in 2002.  He went on to say, "The need for change. And now it's in the Lord's hands and the voters' hands."

In 2003, just after becoming chief executive, he joined the Air Force Reserve.

And in his six and a half years as governor gained a reputation as a fiscal conservative.. maverick.. and being one of the top governors in the country to have his vetoes overriden.

He angered thousands of South Carolinians this spring when he rejected hundreds of millions of dollars of federal government stimulus money destined for education and law enforcement.

A fight he lost in the South Carolina Supreme Court.

He told WBTV in December, "We're talking about going out and borrowing a bunch more money to solve a problem that was created by too much borrowing."

It was the stimulus fight that won Sanford national attention.

In the last few months he's written op-ed pieces in The New York Times and appeared countless times on the national TV networks as the GOP response to what President Obama and the Democrats were doing.

It helped catapult the 49-year old Republican to be a possible presidential contender in 2012.

"I've been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship what started out with a dear, dear friend from Argentina."

Now, with today's admission Mark Sanford joins the ranks of the fallen.

People like John Edwards..

Nevada's U.S. Senator John Ensign

And New York Governor Elliot Spitzer..

All three ambitions.. believed to having promising political careers.. brought down over their admissions of having an affair.

Sanford has resigned as chairman of the Republican Governors' Assocation.

He has a year and a half left in office.. is prohibited by law from running for governor again.

One politico writes the guy could have been president.. now he's finished.. we'll see.

Will he resign as governor?

He was asked that question at his news conference.. and did not answer.

Whether he'll have any success is anyone's guess.. will Sanford survive as President Bill Clinton did or will he have to step down as New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was forced to do.