Gov. Mark Sanford lost more than a wife when Jenny Sanford filed for divorce Friday. He lost an important political adviser as well, one he said kept him grounded amid the trappings of high office.
Jenny Sanford has been described as the force behind her husband's political career, but those who worked with or observed Mark Sanford said that probably exaggerated her influence.
"She's a smart woman, but he's not dumb, not by any stretch of the imagination," said Clare Morris, who served as Mark Sanford's press secretary when he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. "When he was in Congress, she wasn't as instrumental in the day-to-day as I understand she was when he became governor."
Jenny Sanford fit neatly into the political narrative that propelled her husband's career. He was the ordinary, frugal guy who, fed up with what he saw as an arrogant, out-of-touch group of politicians in Washington, D.C., started a long-shot campaign for Congress that led to his election to that body and then to the governor's office.
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In his 2000 book, "The Trust Committed to Me," Mark Sanford described the early days of his first run for Congress in 1994.
"At first we set up shop in our family kitchen, with my wife Jenny as campaign manager," he wrote. "Eventually, as the campaign got moving, and the phone calls, paperwork and general mess started growing, we moved headquarters to the basement, what Jenny would call 'the dungeon.'"
Sanford survived a hard-fought Republican Party primary and run-off before moving on to the general election. He gave his wife credit for helping him get there.
"Jenny had managed the primary and runoff campaigns like a pro," he wrote.
Mark Sanford won that general election, but victory brought marital difficulties that now seem to have foreshadowed Friday's divorce filing.
"It was rough on our young family," Mark Sanford wrote of his early service in Congress. "There were new strains in my relationship with Jenny. Although the hours had been long during the campaign, at least Jenny and I were still in the same boat. With few exceptions I was home every night. Now I was gone for extended periods, and for all practical purposes Jenny was raising our infant boys as a single parent. Her consistent refrain was that I wasn't the only one in the family who supported term limits."
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