Sanford’s wife, sons move out of S.C. governor’s mansion

Governor Mark Sanford responded to questions about his wife and sons moving from the state residence in front of the Beaufort County Courthouse in Columbia, S.C. Governor Mark Sanford responded to questions about his wife and sons moving from the state residence in front of the Beaufort County Courthouse in Columbia, S.C. (Sarah Welliver/The Island Packet via Associated Press)
By Jim Davenport
Associated Press / August 8, 2009

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COLUMBIA, S.C. - The wife of Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina moved out of the governor’s official residence with their four sons yesterday, a little more than a month after he admitted to a yearlong affair with an Argentine woman he called his “soulmate.’’

Jenny Sanford and several other women moved bags of clothes, a suitcase, and armloads of suits and dresses on hangers from the governor’s mansion in Columbia before departing in a caravan of sport utility vehicles. Three of the four boys were present, carrying tote and duffel bags.

Before departing, she hugged several of the women who helped her carry belongings out. In a statement, Jenny Sanford said she was heading to the family residence on Sullivans Island, some 120 miles southeast, for the upcoming school year.

“From there, we will work to continue the process of healing our family,’’ she said. “While we will be leaving Columbia, we will return often, and I will remain engaged in activities in my role as first lady, acknowledging that my responsibilities to my family come first.’’

The governor, who spoke to reporters elsewhere in the state later yesterday, termed the reconciliation “a day at a time process’’ and said the move was a mutual decision.

“It’s been brewing for a while and something we’ve been back and forth on and kicked around at length. It was not entered into lightly but with a whole lot of thought and prayer,’’ he said.

Jenny Sanford is a former Wall Street vice president who helped launch her husband’s political career, and endured his tearful public confession in June. She had separated from her husband and sought refuge with her sons at the couple’s coastal home two weeks before news of the affair broke. The coastal home is a low, two-story house set back 50 yards from the beach, featuring a large great room with windows overlooking the water. It was briefly on the market earlier this year with an asking price of $3.5 million.

The boys had attended Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, a private school in Columbia. The governor said the boys will attend Porter Gaud School, a private school in Charleston.

The departure from the mansion, which once served as officer quarters for a Civil War arsenal, came two days after the Sanfords returned from a two-week vacation in Europe. The building has six public rooms downstairs and a huge kitchen; the family lived upstairs.

Jenny Sanford has called her husband’s behavior “inexcusable’’ but said she was willing to give him another chance, although she said reconciliation would not be easy.

Sanford, 49, disappeared for nearly a week in late June to see his Argentine lover, Maria Belen Chapur, leaving his staff, his wife, and the rest of the state in the dark about his whereabouts.