Mark Sanford’s Campaign About To Collapse?

Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford seemed to be on the verge of an unlikely political comeback after he won the GOP’s nomination for the 1st Congressional District now appears to be in the middle of another bizarre story involving his personal life:

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford must appear in court two days after running for a vacant congressional seat to answer a complaint that he trespassed at his ex-wife’s home, according to court documents acquired by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The complaint says Jenny Sanford confronted Sanford leaving her Sullivans Island home on Feb. 3 by a rear door, using his cell phone for a flashlight. Her attorney filed the complaint the next day and Jenny Sanford confirmed Tuesday the documents are authentic.

The couple’s 2010 divorce settlement says neither may enter the other’s home without permission. Mark Sanford lives about a 20-minute drive away in downtown Charleston.

Republican Mark Sanford is trying to revive his political career that was derailed by an extramarital affair that ended the couple’s marriage. He faces Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch on May 7 as he tries to regain the 1st District congressional seat he held for three terms in the 1990s.

Spokesman Joel Sawyer said the Sanford campaign had no immediate comment on the court documents.

The complaint filed by Jenny Sanford’s lawyer, Deena Smith McRackan, said that Mark Sanford has “entered into a pattern of entering onto plaintiff’s property. Plaintiff has informed defendant on a number of occasions that this behavior is in violation of the court’s order and has demanded that it not occur again.”

In Febuary of 2011, McRackan sent a letter to Mark Sanford telling him not to trespass on Jenny Sanford’s property. A copy of that letter was also sent to the local police, according to court filings.

Jenny Sanford said Tuesday that she has custody of the couple’s four boys.

She said the complaint has nothing to do with her former husband’s efforts to rebuild his career in politics. She said it was filed with the court the day after the incident and when a family court judge last month set the case for the docket, it happened to be two days after the election.

“I am doing my best not to get in the way of his race,” Jenny Sanford told the AP. “I want him to sink or swim on his own. For the sake of my children I’m trying my best not to get in the way, but he makes things difficult for me when he does things like trespassing.”

Sanford’s explanation for this apparently boils down to the idea that he wanted to watch the Super Bowl with his son:

Former South Carolina governor and congressional candidate Mark Sanford admitted Wednesday that he entered his ex-wife’s home in early February — an apparent violation of the terms of their divorce settlement — but said he did so so his son wouldn’t have to watch the Super Bowl alone.

The 1st Congressional District Republican candidate, running in a close race against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, responded with a lengthy statement to an Associated Press report Tuesday night that Jenny Sanford filed a court complaint accusing him of trespassing. The news is a serious setback to Sanford, coming less than three weeks before the May 7 special election and as he is trying to assuage voter concerns about his extramarital affair that derailed his political career four years ago.

“It’s an unfortunate reality that divorced couples sometimes have disagreements that spill over into family court,” Sanford wrote. “I did indeed watch the second half of the Super Bowl at the beach house with our 14 year old son because as a father I didn’t think he should watch it alone. Given she was out of town I tried to reach her beforehand to tell her of the situation that had arisen, and met her at the back steps under the light of my cell phone when she returned and told her what had happened.

“There is always another side to every story, and while I am particularly curious how records that were sealed to avoid the boys dealing with embarrassment are now somehow exposed less than three weeks before this election, I agree with Jenny that the media is no place to debate what is ultimately a family court matter, and out of respect for Jenny and the boys, I’m not going to have any further comment at this time,” Sanford said.

Now, it’s worth noting that this isn’t really a stalking allegation because Sanford’s ex-wife was out of town at the time. Nonetheless, it’s a violation of a court order and it occurred at time when he was already running for Congress. One can understand a parent’s desire to spend time with their children, especially in a divorce situation where one spouse has primary custody. Nonetheless, Sanford was surely aware of the Court Order and the potential consequences of violating it not just legally, but also politically.  So, once again, he’s behavior is somewhat inexplicable.

It’s unclear what impact this will have on the race, but I doubt it will be good. This is especially true now that the National Republican Congressional Committee has announced it will no longer be involved in the race and has pulled all of its ads.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2013, Congress, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. stonetools says:

    Hmm, maybe Ms. Colbert will win. A Democrat in South Carolina would be great.

  2. James Joyner says:

    If the kid was alone in the house for an extended period, I’d consider those exigent circumstances. But I don’t know what the law is vis-a-vis a 14-year-old.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    Snerk!

  4. rudderpedals says:

    Deep down, he doesn’t want to win.

  5. Moosebreath says:

    ““I did indeed watch the second half of the Super Bowl at the beach house with our 14 year old son because as a father I didn’t think he should watch it alone.”

    And picking his son up and taking him back to his house was considered a worse course of action than violating a court order by trespassing?

  6. @James Joyner:

    Yea that’s a good point.

    The other factor, which I didn’t mention in the post, is that the Sanford’s divorce is sealed. How these filings became public is a somewhat interesting question considering it took place in the context of a political campaign.

  7. matt bernius says:

    Generally speaking, Sanford could do just about anything and still win this district. He’s won it three times in the past, and would still be representing the district if he had not run for governor.

    That’s part of the problem with thinking that his primary win tells us anything about the average politician’s ability to overcome a sex scandal.

  8. legion says:

    So, once again, he’s behavior is somewhat inexplicable.

    Oh no, it’s quite completely explicable. When he failed out of the Governorship it wasn’t just because he was cheating on his wife – it was because he walked out of the Governor’s office and got on a plane to South America to spend some random amount of time with his girlfriend without telling anyone in the state what he was doing. His own staff didn’t know that he had left the country! He literally abandoned every single responsibility he’d ever been given. And to this day, he has no inkling that he did anything wrong. And completely ignoring a court order for this flimsy an excuse is the exact same kind of thing… This guy is gonna go down in medical history as the poster child for narcissism.

  9. PJ says:

    @James Joyner:

    If the kid was alone in the house for an extended period, I’d consider those exigent circumstances. But I don’t know what the law is vis-a-vis a 14-year-old.

    Does it say that the kid was alone in the house? No, it says that Mark Sanford didn’t want his son to watch the Super Bowl alone. That’s quite different.

    If the kid had been alone in the house for an extended period, my guess is that Mark Sanford would have reported it and tried to get custody…

  10. “If the kid was alone in the house for an extended period, I’d consider those exigent circumstances.”

    True, but then again…..Sanford should have took the kid to his place. That’s what my parents would have done back when I was a divorce baby. Neither would have presumed that it would be cool to hang out at the other’s house.

  11. Gromitt Gunn says:

    If Sanford was really concerned with doing the right thing as a father, he wouldn’t have gone hiking down to Argentina in the first place.

  12. Ed in NJ says:

    This guy is a nutcase, and no amount of spin is going to change that. Thankfully for him, Jenny Sanford truly seems to be a loyal Republican and a good mother, or she would have ended his career by not simply by telling the truth about this guy.

    But it’s all right there. He didn’t meet her at the back door, he was sneaking out by light of a cell phone when she came home unexpectedly. It calls into question not only his narcissism, but also his judgement and his parenting skills, Did the 14 year old even want him there, and if so, was he contributing to his defiance of/keeping secrets from his mother? Otherwise he would have simply picked him up to watch the game elsewhere with her permission.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb):

    Neither would have presumed that it would be cool to hang out at the other’s house.

    As the father in a divorce, my ex’s place was the last place I wanted to be. This guy is just not right.

  14. MarkedMan says:

    My god, I hope we haven’t descended so far into paranoid parenting that leaving a fourteen year old alone in a house while we go shopping is considered negligent? It should be considered normal? Would you really drag a 14 year old to the grocery store with you?

  15. Moosebreath says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I agree. To the contrary, we have left a 14 year old to babysit our kids for 2-3 hour strecthes.

  16. gVOR08 says:

    And once again–where do Republicans find these people. And why?

  17. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: @Moosebreath: Oh, absolutely. But presumably she’s not going shopping long enough for a Super Bowl to transpire?

  18. de stijl says:

    This is clearly a person whose warped psychological state tells him that repeated public humiliation at utterly failing at his most basic social / job requirements is a *good* thing.

    That’s not narcissism. It’s a strange sort of masochism. It’s a “I’ve risen much too high for my ability. I don’t deserve this & I would be a fraud to accept it. Please, God, make it stop.” reaction.

    In the South Park framework it would look like:
    1. Do something so humiliating and outrageous that everyone says you cannot continue on this path
    2. ???
    3. I won’t feel like an a worthless, clueless, weirdo outsider whom everyone hates on sight

    This is a man who is desperate for public humiliation because he thinks, somehow, public humiliation will save him.

    What it says about the folks who voted for him is beyond my ken.

  19. Davebo says:

    @James Joyner:

    Now, it’s worth noting that this isn’t really a stalking allegation because Sanford’s ex-wife was out of town at the time.

    Seriously James? And of course you meant half of a superbowl. The second half to be precise, minus apparently the half time extravaganza.

    She wasn’t out of town. (Hence catching him in the act) and he didn’t “watch the superbowl with his son. And leaving a 14 year old alone for 2 hours in the home now constitutes exigent circumstances.

    You should have known you’d screwed the pooch when Doug thought that was a “good point”.

  20. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @James Joyner: You’re starting to sound like a “helicopter parent.” Don’t do it; it will be bad for your children.

  21. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “But presumably she’s not going shopping long enough for a Super Bowl to transpire?”

    Sorry, but while you and I would not go shopping for that long, I know many women (including my wife) who can do that easily.

  22. James Joyner says:

    @PJ: @MarkedMan: @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: @Davebo: I don’t know what the circumstances were. Mark Stanford’s claim is that his ex-wife was “out of town” and that his son was “alone.” I’m saying that could constitute an exigent circumstance.

    Now, “out of town” might just mean shopping or running errands in the city half an hour down the road. And, yes, a 14-year-old can take care of himself for two or three hours. If that’s all it was, it’s not an exigent circumstance. But we really don’t know.

  23. EddieInCA says:

    @James Joyner:

    Now, “out of town” might just mean shopping or running errands in the city half an hour down the road. And, yes, a 14-year-old can take care of himself for two or three hours. If that’s all it was, it’s not an exigent circumstance. But we really don’t know.

    We KNOW she got back before he left.

    We know that.

  24. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “Stanford’s claim is that his ex-wife was “out of town” and that his son was “alone.” I’m saying that could constitute an exigent circumstance.”

    I think you are missing what Sanford himself said. He wasn’t treating this like an exigent circumstance because his ex-wife left his son home alone for an extended period. He said, “I did indeed watch the second half of the Super Bowl at the beach house with our 14 year old son because as a father I didn’t think he should watch it alone.”

  25. grumpy realist says:

    @de stijl: There was an analysis some time back that made the same point about Nixon…

    Either it’s self-sabotage/fear of success, or narcissism so intense nothing’s going to make a dent in it.

  26. Ken Peffers says:

    The proceeding comments contain a lot of emotion and not much reason. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Mr. Sanford is a “nut” or that he is basically an irresponsible person. Nor could one reasonably fault Mrs. Sanford on the basis of what I have seen.

    Who, who has been through a divorce with children, hasn’t had some little disagreement on the level of the trespassing charge (I’m not taking his side on the issue)?

    I recall that when I was in the middle of a divorce many years ago, I was living out of the country at the time. The Friend of the Court office insisted that they were not required by law to post their letters with anything more than domestic first class postage, so their letters to me went into a big bin with other returned mail. I’m not making this up! So when they thought that I was way behind on child support they had a judge issue an arrest warrant. They wouldn’t telephone. It turns out that they had two accounts for me and some payments has gone into the one that they weren’t looking at.

    MORE TO THE POINT

    Why did the NRCC decide not to fund Mr. Sanford’s race.

    Could it be that Mr. Sandford’s media based campaign is so clumsy that it wouldn’t benefit from investment. When I look at his campaign Facebook page and website, I’m struck by how little is there. It is very clumsy and very thin.

    I don’t know if that is bad, but if Mr. Sanford has decided to run his campaign on straight shoe leather and in-person, face to face meetings, then money investments would be a waste of resources.

    If it is just the fact that he was the at fault person in a divorce and he showed up at the ex-wife’s house to watch a baseball game with the kid, I don’t think that’s going to necessarily lose him an election.

  27. MarkedMan says:

    @Ken Peffers: In politics, as in life, you get little benefit of the doubt when you seem to be “enforcing the stereotype” (credit to the great Barney Miller show. Can anyone name the episode?) Mark Sanford, because of the Appalachian Trail thing, has raised serious doubts about his ability to keep his eye on the prize when his emotions are roiled, as well as questions about his ability to act in a mature manner. If the driveway incident stood on its own, he might easily survive it. But it seems to reinforce the doubts people already have about him. I don’t know about you, but the little detail about him sneaking off by the light of his cellphone put the following image in my head: Mark Sanford is texting with his son, who tells him he is watching the Superbowl and his mom has gone out. Sanford goes over, parks his car around the corner, warns his son not to tell his mother (not a good thing in and of itself) and, when he hears said mother’s car in the driveway tries to sneak out without turning on the lights. Now, I have no evidence for any of this, but it is the scenario that played through my mind. And it reinforces my impression of Sanford as essentially “stuck at 12”, a small boy living in a mans body.