Fresh off a redemptive win in South Carolina's special election, former Governor Mark Sanford's return to Congress will make him a prominent wild card in an already fractious Republican caucus.
Sanford, whose political career was short-circuited in 2009 by an extramarital affair that marred his last 18 months as governor, earned a political rebirth along with a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday by defeating Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch.
Sanford will arrive in Washington owing little to the Republican Party's leadership, which withheld its support as he battled Colbert Busch in their heavily Republican district. Once he returns to the House seat he held from 1995 to 2001, his independence and staunch fiscal conservatism could give him clout as Congress enters another round of divisive battles over the federal budget.
"There is obviously the potential for Sanford to be a real thorn in (the House Republican) leadership's side," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said. "He's a free agent; he can do whatever he wants."