Family Circus in South Carolina

When Nikki Haley bent to national party pressure (or at least that’s my theory) and picked Low Country congressman Tim Scott to temporarily replace Jim DeMint, she created, consciously or not, a potential circus of a special election to replace him in the House. At the center is her former mentor and immediately predecessor as governor, the noted hiker and Latin American tourist Mark Sanford–and possibly his former wife.

Yes, Mark Sanford has reportedly decided to run for the seat he held before becoming governor.

Thanks to name recognition if nothing else, Sanford would begin the campaign as a presumptive favorite to make a primary runoff spot in a very crowded field (at least four state legislators are running). Unless, that is, his ex-wife Jenny jumps into the race (qualifying doesn’t end until the end of next week). The story circulating in SC is that Mark Sanford asked Jenny to run his campaign, as she did in the past. The idea did not go over very well. Sanford is now engaged to Maria Belen Chapur, the Argentian “soul-mate” the very married governor was visiting when he disappeared from his state back in 2009 after telling his staff (and presumably his family) he was going hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Jenny Sanford would undoubtedly stomp her ex-husband if she chose to run. But even if voters in the 1st congressional district avoid that tabloid-dream scenario, the contest should be grotesque fun. The field could soon include former SC Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, who resigned his office in 2007 after pleading guilty to cocaine distribution charges. Ravenel also said he was renouncing U.S. citizenship in 2011 after discovering that as an ex-felon he had lost his right to own guns. Guess that was just another broken promise by a politician.

All in all, looks like a fine primary contest for the Party of Family Values.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.