Ex-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford announces run for Congress

Aug. 28, 2012: Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

Aug. 28, 2012: Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.  (AP)

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford announced Wednesday he is running for his old congressional seat, returning to politics nearly four years after his affair with an Argentine woman was exposed.

“I am running because our country’s future is at stake if we don’t get our hands around runaway government spending in Washington,” Sanford said.  “We need more (lawmakers) who have shown themselves to be leaders in standing up to the big spenders, regardless of party.”

The ex-Republican governor said last month that reports he was planning a political comeback were accurate and he was in Charleston last week looking for office space for his campaign.

The National Review Online on Tuesday first reported the announcement.

Sanford's old 1st District seat is open. Its former occupant, Rep. Tim Scott, was appointed to the Senate seat left vacant by the resignation of Sen. Jim DeMint.

The two-term governor was seen as a possible contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination before he vanished from South Carolina for five days in 2009 to visit his mistress in Argentina.

Reporters and others were told he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

When he returned, Sanford confessed the affair in a tearful Statehouse news conference. He later called Maria Belen Chapur his "soul mate" and the couple got engaged last summer.

The international affair ended any hopes Sanford had of running for president and destroyed his marriage, which ended in divorce from his wife, Jenny.

Jenny Sanford said Monday that, after considering the race, she will not seek the 1st District seat, saying being at home with her family was more important.

"The idea of killing myself to run for a seat for the privilege of serving in a dysfunctional body under (House Speaker) John Boehner when I have an 8th-grader at home just really doesn't make sense to me," she said.

As for her ex-husband, she said, "he did a good job as congressman and he has as much right as anybody else to run for Congress, and we'll see what happens." But she added, "my ex-husband's going to have a number of questions to answer, and how he deals with them will make or break his campaign."

Before leaving office, Sanford avoided impeachment but was censured by the Legislature over state travel expenses he used for the affair. He also had paid what is still the largest ethics fine ever in South Carolina at $70,000.

The 52-year-old Sanford was elected to the 1st District seat in 1994 and served three terms before voters chose him as governor in 2002 and again in 2006. The district reaches south along the South Carolina coast from Charleston to the Georgia state line. Filing doesn't open until Friday, but another famous name got into the contest on Tuesday.

Teddy Turner, the son of media magnate Ted Turner, announced he's holding a reception on Thursday to kick off his campaign for the GOP nomination.

"Spending in Washington has gotten way out of control with no real efforts to cut spending while thousands go without jobs. It's frustrating and I believe I can bring fresh ideas to provide a path of creating jobs while fighting to control spending in Washington," Turner said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.