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Disgraced former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford’s political comeback is officially underway, with the release of the first ad of his congressional campaign.

Sanford was widely viewed as a national Republican leader and potential presidential candidate until June of 2009, when he cut off all contact with his staff and family, and disappeared for six days. When he returned to South Carolina, Sanford revealed that he had not been hiking the Appalachian Trail (as his spokesman had claimed,) but was in Argentina carrying out an extramarital affair. The revelation ended Sanford’s marriage, and seemingly ended his political career.

Just over three years later, however, Sanford is back, in pursuit of the congressional seat vacated by now-Senator Tim Scott. In his first ad, titled “Change Washington,” Sanford confronts the scandal that derailed his career.

“More recently, I’ve experienced how none of us go through life without mistakes,” Sanford says in the ad. “But in their wake we can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances and be the better for it. In that light, I humbly step forward and ask for your help in changing Washington.”

Sanford, who served three terms in the House before being elected governor in 2002, is viewed as a strong contender in a crowded Republican field which contains 15 declared candidates. The winner of that primary will likely face Elizabeth Colbert Busch — sister of comedian Stephen Colbert — who is favored to win the Democratic nomination.

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