COLUMBIA, S.C. - When South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford cheated on his wife, he also betrayed his top political adviser.
First lady Jenny Sanford told the world in a statement Wednesday that she had sent her husband packing nearly 15 years after she launched his political career.
Mark Sanford apologized to her and their four sons at a tearful press conference where he admitted a yearlong affair with a friend in Argentina whom he had visited on a secret trip.
His wife said in her own statement later that she kicked him out of the house two weeks ago and asked him not to speak to her while she tried to come to grips with his infidelity.
It was an abrupt and stunning - even if temporary - split for a couple who helped shape the state's political landscape.
During Mark Sanford's first gubernatorial campaign in 2002, Jenny ran the show from the basement of their Sullivans Island beach house while he fretted as the wind blew his charts off of tripods during outdoor press conferences.
They are more thrifty than glamorous: She shops at Wal-Mart and he's been known to wear a frayed blue blazer.
She's reserved; he's mildly harried and sometimes stumbles over words. She stays mostly out of the spotlight; he doesn't much like the crowds it brings, slipping unnoticed into some of the state's biggest GOP gatherings.
Jenny Sanford is a millionaire whose family fortune comes from the Skil Corp. power tool company. Through her husband's three U.S. House campaigns and first race for governor, she helped him pull a wagon he and the boys built on parade routes across the state.
Their sons had mostly outgrown it by the time Mark Sanford ran for a second and final term in as governor in 2006, and Jenny Sanford let him hire a professional consultant, although she still called most of the shots. Since Mark Sanford first took office in 2003, Jenny has been a regular at morning meetings with top staff.
Observers noted she hasn't been seen as much lately, but it was clear from Wednesday's developments that she has been managing her side of the house.
"When I found out about my husband's infidelity I worked immediately to first seek reconciliation through forgiveness, and then to work diligently to repair our marriage," she said in a release. "We reached a point where I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect, and my basic sense of right and wrong. I therefore asked my husband to leave two weeks ago."
She said she loves him and has tried to be the best wife she can during nearly 20 years of marriage.
Both started their careers on Wall Street, where Jenny Sanford was a vice president in mergers and acquisitions at Lazard Freres for six years. Mark Sanford set out to work at Goldman Sachs after earning a masters of business administration from the University of Virginia, but he didn't much like it.
They met in the Hamptons, got hitched, and headed South, where Mark Sanford first got into real estate and then politics.
He describes himself as libertarian-leaning Republican. In Congress, where he started in 1995, he was an outspoken Social Security reformer, a position that made him the lone "no" vote on a handful of bills and regularly had him bucking House GOP leadership.
But he also built a legend and friendships. He was known for returning his housing allowance and sleeping on a futon in his House office.
His 2002 election to the state's top post was heralded as South Carolina Republicans' first chance to hold both the Legislature and governor's office, but GOP leaders say it's been a far-from-productive tenure.
He has railed against the Republican-dominated Legislature, never more so than this year, as he tried to thwart efforts to take federal stimulus money for schools. He built a national reputation among fiscal conservatives, prompting talk of a possible 2012 presidential bid, but his position angered many at home.
He sued the legislature and lost, a battle that left him drained and complaining that the state's highest court was too beholden to legislators and governors were powerless.
Jenny Sanford appeared to tire of politics earlier, as the 2006 campaign wound down. She dampened talk that Sanford would run for president by saying it was time for him to focus on family.
Mark Sanford said he wants to reconcile with his wife. His spokesman said he has no plans to resign. And Jenny Sanford said Wednesday the couple still has a shot regardless of what happens to her husband's political career.
"I believe Mark has earned a chance to resurrect our marriage," she said.
READ THE STATEMENT
South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford issued the following statement Wednesday after her husband's admission to an extramarital affair:
I would like to start by saying I love my husband and I believe I have put forth every effort possible to be the best wife I can be during our almost twenty years of marriage. As well, for the last fifteen years my husband has been fully engaged in public service to the citizens and taxpayers of this state and I have faithfully supported him in those efforts to the best of my ability. I have been and remain proud of his accomplishments and his service to this state.
I personally believe that the greatest legacy I will leave behind in this world is not the job I held on Wall Street, or the campaigns I managed for Mark, or the work I have done as First Lady or even the philanthropic activities in which I have been routinely engaged. Instead, the greatest legacy I will leave in this world is the character of the children I, or we, leave behind. It is for that reason that I deeply regret the recent actions of my husband Mark, and their potential damage to our children.
I believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity, dignity and importance of the institution of marriage. I believe that has been consistently reflected in my actions. When I found out about my husband's infidelity I worked immediately to first seek reconciliation through forgiveness, and then to work diligently to repair our marriage. We reached a point where I felt it was important to look my sons in the eyes and maintain my dignity, self-respect, and my basic sense of right and wrong. I therefore asked my husband to leave two weeks ago.
This trial separation was agreed to with the goal of ultimately strengthening our marriage. During this short separation it was agreed that Mark would not contact us. I kept this separation quiet out of respect of his public office and reputation, and in hopes of keeping our children from just this type of public exposure. Because of this separation, I did not know where he was in the past week.
I believe enduring love is primarily a commitment and an act of will, and for a marriage to be successful, that commitment must be reciprocal. I believe Mark has earned a chance to resurrect our marriage.
Psalm 127 states that sons are a gift from the Lord and children a reward from Him. I will continue to pour my energy into raising our sons to be honorable young men. I remain willing to forgive Mark completely for his indiscretions and to welcome him back, in time, if he continues to work toward reconciliation with a true spirit of humility and repentance.
This is a very painful time for us and I would humbly request now that members of the media respect the privacy of my boys and me as we struggle together to continue on with our lives and as I seek the wisdom of Solomon, the strength and patience of Job and the grace of God in helping to heal my family.