Disgraced South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford might not have much political capital these days, but his wife is using hers.
Jilted first lady Jenny Sanford endorsed Republican state Rep. Nikki Haley in a letter made public Wednesday to succeed her term-limited husband in 2011.
Mark Sanford has long complimented Haley for her efforts to make the Legislature more accountable, including by forcing more roll call votes. Haley's Internet home page once displayed his photo, but that disappeared after Sanford skipped the state in June and returned to confess a yearlong affair with an Argentine woman.
Jenny Sanford's letter supporting Haley could help a campaign that finished the third quarter with $273,061 in cash on hand — the least in a five-way GOP primary in June.
Jenny Sanford was a former Wall Street executive, has ties to wealthy donors and a reputation for running her husband's political campaigns.
It "gives her some credibility when Jenny Sanford says 'I'm supporting her,'" said Danielle Vinson, a Furman University political scientist. "We're not used to first ladies just openly endorsing people and when they do, it's news. That brings a little attention, at least for a while."
She has "proven to be politically savvy when it comes to helping candidates get elected," College of Charleston political scientist Kendra Stewart said. "And right now having Jenny Sanford's endorsement is certainly more valuable than having the endorsement of her husband."
Sanford mentions her husband once in the letter, saying she was "proud of the work Mark and his administration have done over almost seven years now."
But she also alludes to her current circumstances. "But our family is resilient, and we will be fine," she wrote.
While the state GOP and Democratic Party are both run by women, the state has had the fewest women in the country elected to the Statehouse and no women are holding statewide office.
The first lady also has launched an Internet site filled with family photos. Its home page says: "Mrs. Sanford is enjoying spending more time in her most important role as mother of her four sons Marshall, Landon, Bolton and Blake and is separated from her husband."
The site was registered July 1, days after Sanford returned from his rendezvous with Maria Belen Chapur.
"I wouldn't read anything into it," said longtime friend Denise Medved, who registered the site.
Jenny Sanford said after the governor returned she was open to reconciliation. She drew praise for not standing beside her unfaithful husband in the public spectacle.
She moved out of the Governor's Mansion this summer and took the children to the beach house she owns on Sullivans Island.
Since then, the Sanford's have refused to discuss the nature of their relationship.