COLUMBIA - Mark Sanford recalls, time and again, crossing the finish line at his high school cross-country meets and seeing his father standing there, cheering him on.
"And I've not been able to do that with my boys, and that troubles me," Mr. Sanford said.
He acknowledges that being governor often interferes with being dad.
For his wife, Jenny, and four sons, being the First Family brings opportunities and challenges.
It means Mr. Sanford sometimes misses the soccer games - and sometimes the whole family heads out across the state on Saturday for a series of meet-and-greets.
There is the occasional trip to the Lowcountry family farm, where Mr. Sanford said he tries to emulate his father, who made his children do "inane" jobs.
"My dad's point was, 'I can give you two things in life: an education and I can teach you how to work,'" Mr. Sanford said. "So we're trying to do the same thing."
"You've gotta make the best out of the things that maybe aren't fun, and enjoy the things that maybe are," he said. "We've made it a family process, as opposed to me being out alone on the campaign."
Mr. Sanford knows that, if he wins re-election Tuesday, it will mean four more years of juggling his two roles. But, he said, there is a tradeoff.
"The tradeoff has been that I'm doing something that I think will impact South Carolina, and I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing with my life," he said.
To date, Mr. Sanford's confidence has helped get him into Congress in 1994 and, six years later, into the governor's mansion.
He's hoping for another term - and he has a lot of people convinced he's right for the job.
As of mid-October, his campaign had collected nearly $8 million.
"He is a man of integrity," said Wilbur Prezzano, a retired Charleston resident. "And what I mean by that is he does what he says he's going to do, which is unusual in politicians."
Others find Mr. Sanford's determination less endearing.
His clashes with legislators are well-known: carrying pigs into the Statehouse to protest "pork" spending, vetoing the entire budget last spring.
"We are quite aware of the fact that we have offended some folks," Mr. Sanford said. "It's not personal. We're not trying to be personally offensive."
"(Members of the public) recognize that we're pushing for change," he said. "At times we're out ahead of ourselves farther than we can get, because change does come slowly. But by stretching the envelope, we believe that you get more in the way of change."
And if critics complain that Mr. Sanford antagonizes, sometimes obstructs, the Legislature, well, that's sort of what his supporters like about him.
"He's the only one standing in the way of runaway spending," said Bill Lowndes of Spartanburg, the chairman and CEO of Tindall Corp.
If re-elected, Mr. Sanford expects his second term will build on the foundation he has already laid.
He believes strongly that the government should be restructured to give the governor more control.
"Any of the bigger ideas just take time to bring about," he said. "Sustained pressure over time, you'll (create) change. So we wouldn't view it (a second term) as a completely different game. It'd be the second half of the first game, but what happened in the first half affects your ability to have success in that second half."
Constitutionally banned from running again in 2010, Mr. Sanford said he "believes" this would be the last political office he'll hold.
In debates with Democratic opponent Tommy Moore, he's criticized people who make a career out of politics.
Mr. Sanford said he and his wife don't dwell on what their lives would be like if they weren't the First Family of South Carolina.
But, he says, he's never intended to make politics a permanent gig.
"Whether it's in November or whether it's four years from now, we're going back to that other life," he said.
Reach Kirsten Singleton at (803) 414-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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