Vet group targets Sanford: He "abandoned his post"

 ·  Lucy Madison, CBS   ·   Link to Article

In the course of his attempted political comeback, former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has taken pains to distance himself from the scandal surrounding his 2009 extramarital affair. But the veterans group VoteVets Action Fund isn't about to let him - or the people of South Carolina - forget about his past mistakes.


A new TV ad by VoteVets, which describes itself as both non-partisan and progressive and has a history of supporting Democratic candidates and causes, targets Sanford for having "abandoned his post" in 2009, when he took a trip to Argentina to visit his extramarital girlfriend without informing the state, or his wife, of his whereabouts.


"I was there when my country called, even deploying to Afghanistan at age 58," says retired National Guard Colonel Barry Wingard, who is featured in the 30-second ad. "Mark Sanford abandoned his post. No one, not even law enforcement or the National Guard, could reach him."

According to a spokesman for VoteVets, the ad will run through the end of the week at a cost of $30,000. It will appear on area broadcast and cable television.


In June 2009, Sanford mysteriously disappeared from South Carolina for four days, and his staff explained his absence by alleging that the governor was hiking the Appalachian Trail. But upon his return to the state, Sanford admitted that he had actually been in Buenos Aires visiting his girlfriend, and that he and his wife were not officially separated. Sanford subsequently was censured by the state legislature but ultimately served out the remainder of his term. Now, he's running against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, to reclaim his old congressional seat in the state's first district.


But his current bid has been fraught with setbacks: Last week, his ex-wife Jenny Sanford acknowledged that her former husband had previously complained that he trespassed at her house; not long after, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) announced that it would not be spending money to support him.


"What are we supposed to do when we can't get in touch with the leader? You can't just walk away," Wingard said in the ad. "If I had abandoned my post, I could be court-marshaled. It really hurt me, and I think it betrayed all of South Carolina and all of its citizens."


Colbert Busch and Sanford will face off in a special election on May 7.


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