Sanford: ‘I failed mightily’ in personal life, but always defended the taxpayers

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Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) said Tuesday that he had “failed mightily” in his personal life but had always been a staunch advocate for taxpayers, as he sought support for his House bid.

“I’ve been on something of a personal journey and I believe that if you live long enough you will fail at something and I failed mightily,” said Sanford in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show.

Sanford, who is running for Congress in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional  District, has sought to address the personal scandal that drove him from the governorship and reassure voters.

Sanford saw his political career derailed after admitting to an affair in 2009 with an Argentine woman, after misleading staffers that he was taking time off from the state capital to go on a hiking tour of the Appalachian Trail.

He announced last month that he would reenter political life and run to fill the former House seat of Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who was appointed to replace former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). Sanford served three terms in the House before becoming South Carolina governor.

In his interview, Sanford acknowledged his personal missteps but also sought to tout his conservative credentials, saying that voters could trust him to do the right thing in Washington.

“The reality of our lives is that if we live long enough we are going to fail at something and I absolutely failed at my personal life, in my marriage. But one place I didn’t ever fail was with the taxpayer. If you look at my 20 years in politics, what you’d see is a remarkable consistency in trying to watch out for the taxpayer,” he said.

Sanford said that while there was much talk in Washington of addressing the nation’s fiscal woes, he had a proven track record of tackling those issues.

“I was actually rated number one in the entire United States Congress by the National Taxpayers Union in efforts to try and reduce government spending. Rated number one in the entire U.S. Congress by Citizens Against Government Waste, rated the most fiscally conservative governor in America,” he said. “A lot of people talk about our spending problem in Washington — all too few try to do something about it.”

Sanford acknowledged that his run would again return attention to his past personal issues and said there was “definite pain” from revisiting those events. But he said he had spoken to his family members, who encouraged him to run. 

“We all look for redemption in our lives,” Sanford said. “But I would say my focus is crystal clear, which is: Is part of the cost of re-entering politics a discussion of my personal failure and the consequences of that? Yes. Is that painful to me and a lot of others that I love, yes, but I keep going back to [the fact that] we are at a tipping point as a civilization and if we don’t get our financial house in order, there are going to be unbelievable consequences.”

On Monday, Sanford unveiled his first campaign ad, where he said that “none of us goes through life without mistakes.”

“But in their wake we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances and be the better for it,” he added. “In that light I humbly step forward and ask for your help in changing Washington.”

A number of Republicans have also declared their candidacies for the seat, but Sanford is expected to make the primary runoff.