SC Governor Silent (Finally) As Clamor Grows for His Resignation

July 2, 2009 - 5:47 AM
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South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford admits to The Associated Press more encounters with his Argentine mistress than he previously has disclosed, in his office Tuesday, June 30, 2009, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

Columbia, S.C. (AP) - After days of soul-baring and often odd confessions and apologies about an adulterous affair, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford went silent as the clamor for his resignation grew.
 
Sanford, who has said he won't resign, made no public appearances Wednesday, as he figures out how to salvage the last 18 months of his second and last term and his 20-year marriage.
 
The 49-year-old Republican also refused to release promised personal financial records to the media to show he hadn't used public money to fund trips to see his mistress, Maria Belen Chapur, whom he calls his "soul mate."
 
"I just think he needs to shut up," said Democratic Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a social worker and one of the few lawmakers who doesn't think he needs to resign. "I don't want any more details of his love life. He needs to stop being public with his angst and talk to a counselor."
 
Top South Carolina Republicans and at least a half-dozen newspapers, however, are calling for him to step down.
 
Sanford did give two personal checks totaling $3,300 to the state treasurer as reimbursement for part of a taxpayer-funded trip to South America last year. The money covered lodging, meals and airfare to Buenos Aires, where he saw Chapur.
 
Over the previous two days, he had chronicled his affair and tortured emotions in interviews with The Associated Press. Those came less than a week after he returned from a secret visit to Argentina and confessed his affair at a tearful, rambling press conference. His staff had said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail and Sanford apologized for misleading them.
 
His spokesman issued a statement Wednesday saying there's nothing left to say.
 
"He is focused on being governor, on rebuilding his marriage and on building back the trust of South Carolinians," spokesman Joel Sawyer said.
 
In the AP interviews, Sanford laid out his thoughts and feelings in sometimes lurid or odd detail. For example: He said close Christian friends advised him to end the affair immediately and used graphic, figurative terms on how to do so -- "the first step is, you shoot her. You put a bullet through her head," he said.
 
The words were not meant literally, but reveal how dramatically Sanford described the saga.
 
Among the other puzzling tidbits was that he asked permission from his wife, Jenny, to visit Chapur, and that he had had dalliances over the years with other women, but never had sex with them.
 
It left his constituents scratching their heads.
 
"I think he's bizarre," said 29-year-old Courtney Phillips of Columbia, who works at a clothing store. "He's an idiot and I feel terrible for his family. He should muster some dignity and step down."
 
Kristen Nichols-Voyer, a 27-year-old attorney from Charleston, said, "It's sad. It's let a lot of people down."
 
Attorney General Henry McMaster has asked the State Law Enforcement Division to review all of Sanford's travel records to see if he broke any laws. State Rep. Vida Miller, a conservative Democrat, called for a legislative investigation.
 
"We have become an international embarrassment," she said.
 
Republican U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, a candidate for governor, became the first of the state's congressmen to call on Sanford to resign.
 
Though some state Senate Republicans have done the same, no one is talking seriously about pressing to remove him. The state constitution allows top elected officials to elevate the lieutenant governor if the governor is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office," but no law defines what that means.
 
"This section deals more with actual inability, on a respirator in a hospital because he's had a stroke or heart attack, not because he's nutty," said constitutional attorney John Harrell of Charleston, who could find no example of when the provision has been used. He said another example would be if Sanford had never returned from Argentina. "But I don't think a failure of personal life and being inappropriately lovestruck would necessarily rise to the level."
 
Jenny Sanford, who found out about the relationship in January when she discovered a letter the governor had written to Chapur, did not immediately return messages seeking comment after Sanford's latest revelations Tuesday. The Sanfords have four sons.
 
Sen. John Courson, R-Columbia, said he has been speaking with Sanford daily and the governor is exhausted but fit to the lead the state.
 
"He's very tired and this has been a very traumatic experience for him," Courson said. "I don't detect any emotional instability in his voice or inflections."
 
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Associated Press writers Tamara Lush, Katrina A. Goggins, Susanne M. Schafer, Seanna Adcox and Brett J. Blackledge in Columbia, and Bruce Smith in Charleston, contributed to this report.