Few politicians have experienced the high and lows Mark Sanford has been through in his career. On a day the former governor is hoping will close with a return to elected office, we take a look back at Sanford's biggest hits and misses.

2002: Wins governorship, unseating a Democrat

Jenny and Mark Sanford on Election Night 2002. (Lou Krasky/AP)

Sanford toppled then Gov. Jim Hodges (D) in a competitive race, skyrocketing to the state's top job after just six years in the House. He was reelected decisively in 2006, rose to the rank of Republican Governors Association chairman, and was even being mentioned in GOP circles as a possible future presidential candidate in 2012. For a period, he seemed like one of the GOP's brightest rising stars.

2009: That 'Appalachian Trail' news conference

A few years later things, turned sour. Sanford disappeared from the state for nearly a week as governor in 2009. He told staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but was instead in Argentina visiting his then-mistress and now fiancee. He came clean in an at-times rambling news conference that was an epic of the genre.

2010: Pays big ethics fine

Sanford paid a $74,000 ethics fine -- the largest in state history -- after being charged with breaking travel regulations during his tenure. The governor insisted he never broke the law, but the fine was a cap on what was horrible 12-month period in his governorship.

2013: "A God of second chances"

"I’ve experienced how none of us go through life without mistakes," Sanford said in a TV ad early in his comeback bid this year for his old House seat. It was a good commercial from a natural communicator that addressed head-on the issue that threatened to be the elephant in the room for the rest of the campaign. Sanford went on to win the GOP nomination with relative ease.

2013: Not quite a Kodak moment

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) and his fiancee, Maria Belen Chapur, at his victory party. (AP photo)

To the surprise of many, Sanford appeared at his GOP primary victory celebration with his fiancee and former mistress, Maria Belen Chapur. The appearance only served as a reminder of the 2009 episode, and surfaced as an issue later on when ex-wife Jenny Sanford told The Washington Post that the appearance caused tension within the family.

2013: From bad to worse

Mark Sanford's op-ed in the classified section of the Charleston Post and Courier. Mark Sanford's op-ed in the classified section of the Charleston Post and Courier.























After word surfaced that Sanford's ex-wife had accused him of trespassing on her property earlier this year, he only made matters worse by trying to justify his actions and drew even more attention to episode by taking a full-page ad (!) in a local paper.

 2013: Sanford versus Pelosi. Sort of. 

Sanford loves a good prop. He debated a cardboard cutout of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last month in a stunt that looked like a desperation move at the time. But if he wins tonight, Sanford will get the last laugh about his attempts to tie his opponent to national Democrats.

2013: A direct appeal

Bludgeoned over the airwaves by Democratic groups, Sanford used his limited resources to air an ad late in the campaign that played to his strengths as a communicator. He's turned the tide in the race since then -- due to a number of factors, not just the ad -- and brought himself to a neck and neck battle with Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch on Election Day.