(CNN) - Mark Sanford, the outgoing South Carolina governor and onetime rising star within the Republican Party, says his 2009 affair with an Argentinean woman that put an end to his promising political career actually made him a more effective governor.
In an hour-long interview with South Carolina station WIS, Sanford, who made a national name for himself a year and a half ago when he mysteriously disappeared, said the incident ultimately was successful in removing the political target from his back as opponents were no longer interested in steamrolling what appeared to be a Republican on the rise.
"A lot of people at times would push against certain things based on their fear that my political star was climbing," Sanford said in reference to Democratic opponents who assumed he was in line for a presidential run before his affair became public. "If they did [something I wanted], it would help me get to wherever it was they thought I was going."
"What became abundantly clear was the supposed stars on the rainbow weren't there, and I think we were able to debate the issue at hand," he continued. "I was less the issue, and the issue was more the issue."
But the two-term governor, who will wrap up his tenure in the South Carolina Statehouse in just over a month, continued to express regret over the incident that ultimately ended his marriage.
"You make mistakes in life, that's the reality of life," Sanford said. "You have regrets in life. I think the big question is, where do you go from here?"
As for his future plans, Sanford said he has nothing figured out beyond January 14 - his last day in office - when he will get "in my son's pickup truck and leave Columbia, no longer with an agent, and drive down to the coast."
"I'll guess I'll figure it out on the drive east."