Others said Mr. Sanford’s fiscal record is what’s important, and Mr. Sanford is known as a libertarian-leaning ideologue who railed against spending and bucked Republican Party leaders before anyone even coined the tea party movement.
“Mark Sanford is a reliable fiscal conservative, so I, like many conservatives, would be delighted to see him in the race,” said Joanne Jones, vice chairman of the Charleston Tea Party, though she noted she’ll wait to see the entire field before throwing her support behind a candidate.
Mr. Scott will be sworn in Jan. 3 to replace Mr. DeMint, who announced his resignation earlier this month. Mr. Scott, who would have to seek election in 2014, will become the state’s first black U.S. senator and the first black Republican U.S. senator from the South since Reconstruction.
Candidates for Mr. Scott’s seat must file by the end of January. Primaries will be held in March, with the general election in May.
State Republican Chairman Chad Connelly said that as of Friday, 14 Republicans had expressed interest.
“Gov. Sanford getting in would certainly alter the dynamics. That list would go down significantly,” he said.
Mr. Sanford has $1.2 million left in his state campaign coffers.
John Dietz of Daniel Island said the affair wouldn’t affect his vote.
“He said he found his soul mate, and at one point in my life that’s exactly how I felt. I empathized,” said Mr. Dietz, a retiree who characterizes himself as a moderate.
Mr. Dietz said he was disappointed that Mr. Sanford could not work with his fellow Republicans in the Legislature.
“I did not necessarily agree with a lot of things he did politically,” he said. “I’m very much neutral at this point.”
The Rev. Dick Giffen, a retired Presbyterian minister from Mount Pleasant, said he wouldn’t support Mr. Sanford, but added that it was unrelated to the affair.
“He wasn’t able to bring people together and get action done,” Mr. Giffen said. “He didn’t produce anything. … I really wasn’t impressed with him.”
Longtime Republican activist and donor John Rainey, who persuaded Mr. Sanford to run for governor after leaving Congress, said Mr. Sanford’s last six months in office, following his tearful press conference, were his most effective.
Mr. Rainey said he hopes Mr. Sanford re-enters politics.