Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, at one time considered a likely 2012 GOP presidential hopeful until he was busted for an extramarital affair, is now engaged to his Argentine ex-mistress.
"Yes, we are engaged, and I’m both happy and excited for what that means,” Sanford, 52, said in the statement provided to CNN that announced his engagement to Maria Belen Chapur. “I have long expressed my feelings for her, she’s a wonderful person."
According to a story in the Argentinian newspaper, Clarin, the two “became engaged last Wednesday, at noon, in the Palermo restaurant Bella Italia Grill," The State said.
Clarin describes the scene:
The paper said Sanford arrived early at the restaurant and gave “a bag with the (engagement) ring to one of the waiters,” asking him to “to invent a good story for his girlfriend.”
Sanford then hid in a bathroom.
When Chapur arrived, the waiter said she had won "a prize" for being the 100th customer of the day and handed her the bag, which she opened, finding the ring. Sanford then appeared.
“What followed was a long moment of kisses, tears and emotions. There were heartfelt words and promises of eternity,” according to the Clarin article.
Sanford has already introduced her to his friends. "My closest friends have met and love her, and I look forward to introducing her to still many more that have yet to do so," the statement said.
How we got here: The Appalachian Trail
Where in the world is South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford? the NY Daily News asked on June 22, 2009 four days after Sanford ditched his security detail, missed Father's Day weekend with his family and didn't show up at work Monday.
South Carolina's State newspaper reported that his staffers initially told reporters that the governor was on a hike on the Appalachian Trail.
But little did they know, acting on a tip, State reporter Gina Smith would meet Sanford on June 24, 2009, as he was getting off a plane from Argentina at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The two-term governor told Smith that he had been driving the coastline of Argentina.
Things went downhill from there. Later that same day, after The State told a former Sanford staffer that the paper had emails that purported to be between the governor and Chapur, Sanford acknowledged the affair during a rambling and tearful news conference that he was in Buenos Aires with Chapur, 41 at the time, whom he called his "soul mate," USA Today reported.
"I will be able to die knowing that I had met my soul mate," he said of Chapur, a runner and former TV journalist with two children, who started as his pen pal in 2001.
Outrage quickly followed, Digital Journal reported at the time, as did memories from his time as a congressman. Sanford was an outspoken critic of then President Clinton's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky and called on the president to resign, NY Daily News said.
"The issue of lying is probably the biggest harm, if you will, to the system of Democratic government . . . because it undermines trust," he told CNN at the time.
He also voted to impeach Clinton, saying, "I think what he did in this matter was reprehensible."
Nevertheless, Sanford later said he would try to fall back in love with his wife, Jenny, but after 20 years of marriage they divorced in 2010, Digital Journal reported.