CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, whose political career was derailed because of his affair with an Argentine woman, announced Wednesday he will seek his old seat in Congress, saying voters are more concerned about their finances than his past indiscretions.
"I think what they are most focused on is not the fact I have made a mistake and apologized and have tried to do right in my life since. What they are focused on is their pocketbook and their wallet," Sanford told The Associated Press.
The 52-year-old Republican was a strong fiscal conservative long before the advent of the Tea Party and said he wants to go back to Washington to restore what he calls "fiscal sanity" to the nation's finances.
Sanford was considered a possible contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 before his affair was revealed. He disappeared from the state for five days, with his aides telling the press he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
All along, he was in Argentina. When he returned, Sanford confessed to the affair in a tearful news conference. He later called Maria Belen Chapur his "soul mate." The couple got engaged last summer and plan to marry this summer.
Sanford spent much of his final days in office traveling around the state apologizing and asking for forgiveness. Now, it's time to stop saying he's sorry and move on, he said.
"I spent more than a year of my life going around apologizing," he said. "The obvious is the obvious. I let myself down and a lot of other people down."
But he added, "The apology tour, if you want to call it that, is over. All you can do is say I'm sorry. But at some point you have to lift up your head and start moving and I'm at that point."
Sanford is seeking his old 1st District seat along the state's coast that became vacant when Gov. Nikki Haley appointed U.S. Rep. Tim Scott to fill the unexpired Senate term of Jim DeMint, who resigned.
Sanford, who served in Congress for three terms in the 1990s, ran his first congressional race calling for financial restraint in Washington and warning the nation could not continue its free-spending ways.
"All the things I was talking about when it wasn't in vogue have indeed come about," he said. "Now we seem to have a fiscal crisis every couple of months."
As when he did when he earlier served in Congress, Sanford said he will limit his terms in Washington, but hasn't yet decided on a number.