By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 7, 2009 1:44 PM
Jenny Sanford, the wife of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, announced Friday morning that she and their sons will leave the governor's mansion in Columbia and settle in the Charleston area, a split that comes after the couple tried for seven weeks to mend their marriage.
Since the Republican governor secretly traveled abroad in June and admitted upon his return that he had an Argentine mistress, the Sanfords have vacationed together in Florida and Europe, and both have repeatedly said they were working to repair their marriage.
But the first lady said Friday that she will move to the family's oceanfront cottage on Sullivan's Island, a lush beach enclave near Charleston almost two hours by car from the state capitol, where her husband remains in office. She said their sons, who had gone to school in the Columbia area, will now attend school in the Charleston area.
"From there, we will work to continue the process of healing our family," Jenny Sanford 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."
"I am so thankful for the overwhelming support and prayers we have received from people all across South Carolina," she said. "I am literally in awe of how blessed we are to have such love and support from family and friends, old and new. It is with this support, and after much careful and prayerful consideration, that I have decided to move back to our home in Charleston with our sons for the upcoming school year."
Jenny Sanford's statement did not address the state of her marriage, and her spokeswoman declined to elaborate on it or say whether the couple was officially separating. Jenny Sanford and several other women were seen by the Associated Press moving boxes and clothing from the governor's mansion on Friday.
"Once again, when it comes to personal family matters like this, I respectfully ask that members of the media allow us to go on with our lives in peace," Jenny Sanford said.
When Mark Sanford delivered a tearful news conference June 24, Jenny Sanford and their sons were living at the beach home, and he said they were effectively separated. But the couple reunited days later and issued statements saying they were seeking reconciliation. Last month, Jenny Sanford said her husband's behavior was "inexcusable," but that she was "willing to forgive Mark for his actions."
On Friday afternoon, the governor issued a statement, saying, "The First Lady's Office has already put out a statement that speaks for the family, on this decision that we felt best, both for our process of reconciliation, and for the boys in the upcoming school year. I stand by this family decision and accordingly ask the media to honor the zone of privacy that Jenny has asked for on behalf of the healing process and our four boys going forward."
Mark Sanford has said he is committed to serving until he is term-limited from office in 2010.