December 15, 2009
Posted: 01:46 PM ET
After spending years as a key player on her husband’s political team, South Carolina’s soon-to-be ex-First Lady Jenny Sanford now finds her own prospective political career the subject of considerable speculation.
With extensive connections, an impressive resume of her own, access to the state’s top fundraisers and a widespread belief that she played a central role in her husband’s political successes, Jenny Sanford has South Carolina political insiders wondering privately and in local political blogs whether a run for Congress—or even governor—is on the horizon.
Sanford announced Friday that she is divorcing Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, whose once-bright national political career was crippled by his admission of an extramarital affair.
While Jenny Sanford has avoided mention of any political ambitions of her own, her background suggests she’s well-equipped for a run for public office. After serving as her husband’s campaign manager both for his first run for Congress in 1994 and his initial run for governor in 2002, she emerged as a backroom powerbroker with ties to the state’s political elite.
And prior to her work on her husband’s campaigns, Sanford was an accomplished investment banker who became vice president of mergers and acquisitions at Lazard, the New York investment bank, by the age of 27.
“From my personal knowledge of her personal intellect and demeanor, I know that she is one of the most talented and smartest political operatives I have ever seen,” said Katon Dawson, the former chairman of the South Carolina GOP and longtime confidant of the Sanfords.
Indeed, some even credit Jenny Sanford with helping to save her embattled husband's job this summer. While she notably did not appear by his side at the press conference where he admitted to his infidelity—and quickly moved out of the governor’s mansion—when pressure for the governor to resign was at a fever pitch in July, it was she who reached out to state legislative leaders to quell the calls for his job.
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