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Jenny Sanford, the political wife who did not stand by her husband, endorses candidate in GOP race to succeed him

November 12, 2009 |  9:20 am

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford confesses to affair in June.

She is the political wife who bucked tradition. When scandal struck her husband, the governor of South Carolina, she did not stand by his side. Instead, Jenny Sanford packed up her things and their four children and moved out of the governor's mansion for the family's home on Sullivan's Island.

Today she issued a letter supporting another "principled, conservative, tough and smart" woman in the crowded Republican primary to succeed Mark Sanford. (You may recall the governor, who once had presidential aspirations, went AWOL last summer, telling his staff he was hiking along the Appalachian Trail while he was actually in Argentina romping with his mistress.)

Jenny Sanford's pick for the state's next governor -- Nikki Haley -- was once a strong ally of Gov. Sanford, but in the wake of the scandal over his disappearance and his affair, she distanced herself, removing his photo from her campaign website.

This is one endorsement that could actually carry some weight. Jenny Sanford, a former Wall Street executive, was instrumental in managing her husband's campaigns, and has a network of supporters around the state. "It sends a signal that you might not be wasting your vote," said Danielle Vinson, a political scientist at Furman University.

In a letter, first reported by South Carolina's State newspaper, Jenny Sanford also talked about how her family is coping in the aftermath of the national scandal. 

"We all know this past year has been difficult for our state on many level," Sanford wrote. "It's been hard for me and my family too. But our family is resilient, and we will be fine. And the people of our state are resilient too. I have no doubt South Carolina will get back on its feet."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo credit: Davis Turner / Getty Images

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