Alternate History

Mark Sanford (Cinco De Mayo)

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Marshall Clement "Mark" Sanford (born 1960) is a retired Confederate politician who served as Vice President of the Confederate States in the Huckabee administration from February 22, 2006 until January 11, 2010, when he resigned in disgrace. Prior to that he served as the Governor of South Carolina from January 2003 until his resignation in January of 2006 and a C.S. Representative from 1996 until 2003.

Sanford was a staunch fiscal conservative added to the Huckabee ticket to shore up his flank with economic conservatives, with whom Huckabee had decisive weaknesses, and to set the Conservative Party up with a young, dynamic potential successor for the 2011 elections. However, despite an active role in the administration in its early years, Sanford became embroiled in June 2009 in a bizarre scandal where he claimed that he was "hiking the Appalachian Trail" when in fact he was seeing an Argentine mistress, and he was missing for six days before reappearing in native South Carolina quietly, where he admitted to the affair. The scandal was a major embarrassment to the socially conservative Huckabee administration and rattled the normally genteel and placid Confederate political culture. The Confederate House of Representatives censured Sanford on October 12, of 2009 and in December the House Judiciary Committee recommended articles of impeachment be sent to the full floor of the House. After the House overwhelmingly voted to impeach Sanford on December 17, 2009, he announced he would resign in January after it became clear that he did not have the votes to survive in the Confederate Senate. He remains the only Vice President to be impeached and to resign in Confederate history.

Extramarital Affair and Scandal

For six days in June, 2009, Vice President Sanford abruptly disappeared for six days, with only his private security detail. His staff refused to comment as to his whereabouts, leading Conservative Senator Jim DeMint to common, "How has it come to pass that we have misplaced the Vice President?" One of his staffers, Deputy Chief of Staff Joel Sawyer, stated that Sanford was "hiking the Appalachian trail" where "cell phone reception is very poor and he cannot be reached." This alone was seen by much of the Confederate political establishment as a bizarre turn of events.

On June 24, Sanford arrived quietly - for being Vice President - at Atlanta International Airport, where he quietly met with a South Carolinian reporter and admitted to having actually been vacationing in secret in Argentina. He then quietly returned to South Carolina, again privately, before returning to Richmond. The rumors soon spread that Sanford was having an extramarital affair. Though affairs were not uncommon in the political class, it was an embarrassment to the Huckabee administration, which had run on its strict social conservatism and "Southern values." Sanford would admit on July 19 that he had been unfaithful to his wife, and it eventually emerged that his  mistress was Argentinean reporter Maria Belen Chapur.

Impeachment and Resignation

The Confederate House of Representatives, led by Speaker Robert Aberholt, began debate on censuring Vice President Sanford on September 20, 2009 and a recommendation to censure the Vice President was passed unanimously by the committee on September 27. The bill, co-sponsored by Don Cazayoux (P-LA), Jimmy Duncan (C-TN) and Spencer Bachus (SF-AL), was put the full House for debate on October 7, 2009. After it appeared that it would barely narrowly lose a vote of the full House after the Huckabee administration pressured individual lawmakers, the House recessed for the weekend so that lawmakers could head home to their districts and return on Monday, October 12, to take a final roll call. When the lawmakers returned, the bill passed the House of Representatives on an overwhelming tripartisan basis, with a vote of 147-4, with four abstaining. In announcing the result in a press conference while flanked by Progressive Floor Leader Jim Marshall and Southern Front Floor Leader Spencer Bachus, Speaker Aberholt stated that "all Confederate Representatives, regardless of political belief, today voted to censure our reckless, offensive and repugnant Vice President." Aberholt was afterwards criticized for his strong language.

The censuring of Sanford was an unprecedented move in modern times - no sitting Vice President had been censured since Tom Watson in 1901. The Confederate Senate proceeded to promptly file articles to censure Mark Sanford on October 14, 2009, introduced by Mary Landrieu (P-LA) and Bill McCollum (SF-FL). The bill was passed out of the Judiciary Committee 4-1 with only Conservative Senator ___ voting against its referral to the full Senate. Despite a brief Conservative filibuster led by Jim DeMint and Jim Bunning, the bill passed on October 20 and Sanford had now been censured by both Houses of Congress.

On October 27, President Huckabee stated in a nationally televised interview that "I support in full my friend and partner, Mark Sanford. I believe that he is a capable Vice President and has served the people of the Confederate States remarkably over the past four years." Despite his vote of confidence, Huckabee's approval rating dropped to its lowest level in his Presidency and in the ensuing November midterms exactly a week later, the Southern Front and Progressive parties both made gains in Congress to create a Majority Coalition in the Senate and narrow Conservative control of the House of Representatives. The Sanford scandal had officially become highly damaging.

Calls for Sanford's resignation began to escalate throughout November, now from prominent Conservatives who were angered that he had cost them seats in the House and Senate, though Huckabee would later acknowledge that the 2009 economic crisis had more to do with it. Sanford defiantly declared on November 18 that he was being "scapegoated" for "Congress' problems and failures" and steadfastly refused to resign. House Judiciary Chairman Virgil Goode thereafter recommended in an interview with Southern News Service (SNStv) that Sanford be impeached formally. Articles of impeachment were written on November 30 by Goode himself and introduced to the Judiciary Committee for consideration for the previously undefined crime of "gross misconduct" and "obstruction of state affairs." Huckabee's Presidential Counsel, Mark Wood, and Chief of Staff, Bob Inglis, both testified before the Judiciary Committee that both charges were specious and unprecedented. The Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the recommendation that the articles be debated on the floor of the House on December 9. Speaker Aberholt, who personally opposed impeachment despite his harsh criticism of Vice President Sanford, allowed the bill full debate on the floor, causing some political observers to suppose that Aberholt was aligning himself to be next-in-line for the Presidency, causing Secretary of War Michael Jennings to refer to the affair as a "coup, plain and simple."

The articles of impeachment were passed by the full House on December 17, the last day before the Christmas recess, 101-43, with Speaker Aberholt abstaining from voting. The majority of opponents of the bill were Conservatives, with some Frontist and Progressives voting against it as well. Sanford was as a result the only Vice President to ever be impeached by the Confederate States House.

With the new Senate being seated on January 3, Sanford's conviction trial was slated to begin on January 20, 2010. Huckabee's advisors reached out to Senate leadership to determine what the picture would be and immediately discovered that there were more than twenty Senators open to impeachment, with a full ten of them already having decided in favor of such action, including six Conservatives. After Christmas, Jenny Sanford, Mark Sanford's American-born wife, announced she was going to file for divorce after several months of a trial separation, further inflaming the controversy. After consulting with his staff and several allies in the Senate, Sanford accepted their recommendation that he resign before his likely inevitable conviction and he formally and irrevocably resigned the Vice Presidency of the Confederate States on January 11, 2010, the first Vice President in history to ever do so. He flew home to South Carolina the same day.

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