Sanford in the spotlight

Though a conservative politician, Mark Sanford has had his share of colorful – and controversial – moments that drew national attention.

- When he was elected to Congress during the Republican Revolution of 1994, Mr. Sanford immediately showed that he took seriously the GOP’s mantra of fiscal restraint by not accepting his allowance for housing. He slept in his Washington office and showered in the congressional members’ locker room. In the House, Mr. Sanford voted more often than almost any other member against spending increases. He also left after serving only three terms, fulfilling a promise he made to voters.

- Mr. Sanford eschewed the time-honored tradition of inaugural balls both times he won the governorship, in 2002 and 2006. Instead, he held a barbecue each time at the Watermelon Shed at the state farmer’s market in Columbia.

- As governor, Mr. Sanford instituted a monthly “open door at four” policy in which citizens could come to his office for a short meeting with him.

- Mr. Sanford’s sometimes contentious relationship with the Republican-controlled S.C. General Assembly gained national attention when he brought live pigs to the House chamber on May 27, 2004, to illustrate his displeasure over legislators overriding nearly all of his budget vetoes on what he considered pork projects. While there, the pigs defecated on the carpet.

- The governor again showed his penchant for using props to make a point in March 2005 when he brought a horse and buggy to the Statehouse entrance to draw attention to his efforts to restructure government. “We have a system of government in this state that to a large extent is still stuck in 1895,” he said.

- In November 2005 Time magazine named Mr. Sanford as one of the three worst governors in the nation, citing Standard & Poor’s 2005 lowering of South Carolina’s bond rating, a 6.3 percent unemployment rate and the state’s losing bid for a $500 million Airbus plant. Mr. Sanford dismissed the rating as the product of a liberal magazine and he pointed to National Review, a conservative publication, which had earlier described him as “one of the best new governors in the country.”

- In May 2008 Mr. Sanford signed into law a bill that requires a woman to see an ultrasound of her unborn child before an abortion. Although other states make ultrasound images available for women, South Carolina became the first to make viewing them mandatory, which abortion foes believe will help reduce the number of abortions.

- During Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, Mr. Sanford was often mentioned as a possible running mate. His status as a vice-presidential favorite took a hit during a July 2008 interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN. When Mr. Blitzer asked the governor to state any significant differences in economic policies between Mr. McCain and President Bush, Mr. Sanford couldn’t come up with an answer.

“Um, yeah. For instance, take, you know, take, for instance, the issue of – I’m drawing a blank, and I hate it when I do that, particularly on television.”

- In March, Mr. Sanford became the first governor to formally reject a portion of the federal stimulus money earmarked by Congress for South Carolina. He claimed that it would devalue the dollar and increase debt. His stance put him at odds with many members of his own party who wanted the money to help make up for a budget deficit. Legislators rejected his compromise proposal to request the money only if the Legislature provided matching funds to help pay down state debt. The S.C. Supreme Court earlier this month ordered Mr. Sanford to request the $700 million in stimulus money after hearing two lawsuits filed by students and school administrators seeking to force his hand.

Sources: Almanac of American Politics; Biography Resource Center; Charlotte (N.C.) Observer; Greenville (S.C.) News; Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.); Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.); US States News; The State (Columbia); U.S. News & World Report; Newsweek; The New York Times

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