SC governor tries to recover amid ouster calls
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admits he used taxpayer money to see his mistress in Argentina and plans to repay the cash.
But the Republican still faces questions about the way he dismissed state law officers assigned to protect him and whether he should have transferred power to his lieutenant while he was away and out of touch.
Sanford disappeared to Buenos Aires for almost a week, returning Wednesday to reveal the affair and publicly apologize to his wife and four sons, his supporters and constituents. He also resigned as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
Sanford has said he left his staff with the impression he was heading off for some solo hiking on the Appalachian Trail, a bogus story that they relayed to reporters who began asking where the governor had gone. Reggie Lloyd, chief of the State Law Enforcement Division, said his agency was dismissed from its security duties the day Sanford left for Argentina and then unsuccessfully tried to contact him.
"As an adult male, he's free to come and go as he pleases, and so we just honestly quit looking for him. We actually would have no authority to expend resources to look for him in that circumstance," Lloyd said.
The sport utility vehicle Sanford had taken has a locator in it, but Lloyd said it was not on. He said it's unlikely the governor knew how to operate the device.
But the state's top senator questioned whether Sanford broke the law when he disappeared without transferring power to Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer.
"I would think that if the evidence indicates that there is a willful effort to circumvent the constitution, I think there would be a chorus of calls for him to resign," said state Sen. Glenn McConnell, a fellow Republican.
Sanford on Thursday did say he'd pay back an undisclosed amount for the nine-day trip to Brazil and Argentina for which taxpayers paid $12,000 last year. That includes $8,687 for Sanford's plane ticket, and $453 in lodging. Project manager Ford Graham's ticket was $1,910.
"I made a mistake while I was there in meeting with the woman who I was unfaithful with," the governor said in a statement.
The day after a rambling news conference during which a pained Sanford admitted to three romantic rendezvous with the woman, Sanford spent most of his time visiting with his family at their coastal home on Sullivans Island. Asked whether he was resigning, Sanford shook his head no as he departed.
"I right now am focused on the important part of this -- the family in this circumstance," he said.
His wife told reporters she was "going to worry about my family and the character of my children" and said as she left for dinner and a boat ride with the boys that her husband's career was his concern. "He'll have to worry about that," she told reporters as she drove away.
On Friday, Sanford planned to focus on work. He called an afternoon meeting of state agency chiefs during which he plans to discuss the tumultuous week, "then he's going to get on to conduct the business of the state," said spokesman Joel Sawyer.
Meanwhile, some fellow Republicans issued sharp calls for him to step down. Glenn McCall, a local representative to the Republican National Committee, said the GOP "can recover from this if we hold him accountable and the governor does the right thing and resigns for the sake of the party."
Sanford donor Al Hill of Dallas-based AG Hill Partners, an investment firm, was having a letter drafted Thursday requesting that money given to the governor's campaign be immediately returned. The company gave $3,500 for Sanford's 2006 race.
"And now we are asking that it be sent back," said Joy Waller, an assistant to Hill. "Do you even have to ask why?"
Sanford, barred by state law from running again, leaves office in 2010. If he were to resign, Bauer -- expected to run for the top spot -- steps into the office.
The two men are not allies -- candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in the state -- and others are also jockeying for the job.
There are deep misgivings about Bauer, who spent much of the 2006 campaign recovering from injuries suffered when a plane he was flying crashed. He was also injured politically by news that he had been let off for speeding after troopers stopped him. He was elected the nation's youngest lieutenant governor in 2002 at age 33.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)