Should I Stay Or Should I Go

In a written apology to voters last week, Gov. Mark Sanford gave reasons for remaining in office, but he offered a different tune when responding to other politicians’ sex scandals, even after he was privately “crossing the line” with other women.

In February 1998, then U.S. Congressman Sanford was asked about the potential benefit of having a lame duck president, Bill Clinton, shamed by the Lewinsky scandal, remain in office for another two years.

“I don’t know how that could be good for anybody,” he told the Post and Courier. “I don’t think it’s good to have anyone who’s wounded in that high an office.”

That December, the impeachment process was gaining traction, but it was evident to Sanford that Clinton would remain in office at the end of the day. He didn’t care, pressing on for censure.

“You would set in place an awfully cancerous growth if you let people out there think, ‘I know the president lies so I can too,”‘ Sanford told the Associated Press.

At the same time, House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston admitted to an affair. Sanford didn’t hold back.

“The issue of lying is probably the biggest harm, if you will, to the system of Democratic government, representative government, because it undermines trust,” he said. “And if you undermine trust in our system, you undermine everything.”

In July 2001, the same year he met his mistress, Sanford was in the throes of his first gubernatorial campaign when another D.C. sex scandal hit. As law enforcement desperately searched for Chandra Levy, Congressman Gary Condit, a California Democrat, admitted to a previous affair with the former intern. Sanford spoke to The Post and Courier at the time about how power disconnects some politicians from their responsibilities and they start to cheat.

“What these guys start thinking is they’re above the law. You saw it with the president,” he said.

“Guys make remarkably stupid mistakes because they’ve lost that sense of self. They get long-winded because they can no longer read the audience. They lose (a sense of) when to turn the mike over,” Sanford said.

Greg Hambrick

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

On Tuesday, Gov. Mark Sanford gave yet another unbelievably frank interview, telling the Associated Press that there were other women (but he never crossed “the ultimate” line).

Sanford also said that his mistress, Maria Belen Chapur, is his soul mate, but he’s trying to learn to love his wife.

Another admission, that he had seen Chapur five times over the past year, has prompted Attorney General Henry McMaster (himself, a 2010 gubernatorial hopeful) to call for an investigation of all of Sanford’s travel.

Sanford fallout likely good news for No. 2

Gov. Mark Sanford has yet to resign from office. But we’ve got a feeling it’s only a matter of time. Sanford fled the state on June 18, having no contact with friends, family, employees, or other state officials until a call to his chief of staff on June 23. He was then caught in a lie about where he’d been when caught getting off a plane from South America on June 24 after visiting his mistress. Visits with the other woman included a stop on at least one taxpayer-funded trip.

We don’t have much faith in this state, but Sanford’s public actions are certain to face rebuke in the legislature. Whether he avoids the drama and resigns, or waits for the outrageous Statehouse battle and is eventually thrown out, it’s pretty clear to us that Lt. Gov. André Bauer will be the next governor of South Carolina — at least for about 18 months.

It’s not clear what he’s jockeying for behind the scenes, but Bauer is proving he’s got a little political savvy by publicly sheathing his sword and said Sanford should remain in office. Sure, let others who won’t profit call for the governor’s ouster.

Sanford’s political demise might be horrible for the governor, his family, and anyone who ever took the Appalachian Trail seriously, but it likely couldn’t have come at a better time for Bauer. The GOP gubernatorial primary in 2010 is looking to be a tough fight with two very experienced challengers (Congressman Gresham Barrett and state Attorney General Henry McMaster), as well as niche candidates sure to siphon off some base support (state Sen. Larry Grooms and state Rep. Nikki Haley).

Bauer’s grueling 2006 reelection bid is another suggestion of a tough road to November 2010. A second place primary finish, with a 10-point spread, led to a runoff and a surprise comeback for Bauer. Come November, he bested Democrat Robert Barber with only 50.08 percent of the vote. The State reported Monday that Bauer may skip the 2010 race if he’s tapped to fill the rest of Sanford’s term.

Bauer has sure been acting like a candidate — tirelessly pressing his anti-tax, pro-faith argument. He also bought an environmentally friendly Smart Car.

And a few months in the governor’s office could do him some good, particularly if he can accomplish one thing, says College of Charleston political science professor Jeri Cabot.

“All he has to do is to appear that he can get along with the legislature,” she says.

It could also help Bauer get a few grown-up miles between him and his perpetual teenager cred, including three high-profile speeding incidents and a plane accident a little over a month before his 2006 primary. A little time in the big boy chair may do him some good if he’s looking for higher office.

The Trip That Likely Sparked It All

In a news release today, the S.C. Commerce Department provided the details of Gov. Mark Sanford’s South American trip from June 21-28, 2008. In his press conference yesterday, the governor told the crowd that his affair with an Argentinian woman began about a year ago.

During the trip, which focused on trade talks with Brazil, Sanford made a side trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, “for official state meetings,” according to Commerce spokeswoman Kara Borie. He was joined by Commerce Project Manager Ford Graham, Borie says. The total cost of Sanford’s airfare was more than $8,600.

E-mails obtained by The State newspaper seem to confirm that Sanford met up with the woman during that trip.

Gov. Sanford, While You Were Out

Secretly in Argentina from June 18 to early June 24, Governor Sanford was reportedly out of contact with his staff and could not be reached until a call early on June 23. We thought we’d mention a few things he missed while he was gone:

• On June 18, there was the admittedly toned-down second anniversary of the Charleston Nine tragedy. Sanford attended the major anniversary event held last year.

• On June 19, the state Employment Security Commission announced that South Carolina’s unemployment rate had reached 12.1 percent, a record high.

• On June 20, a Mt. Pleasant doctor reported treating two people for swine flu.

• June 21 was Father’s Day

• On June 22, renowned local blacksmith and artisan Philip Simmons and longtime Strom Thurmond staffer Warren Abernathy died.

• On June 23, State Ports Authority announced new CEO, and reported traffic at a more than 10 year low.

• On June 24, President Barack Obama held a White House meeting with five governors (including two Republicans) to discuss health care reform.

Sanford admits affair, state paid for Argentina trips

Governor Mark Sanford said Wednesday that it was an affair with an Argentinian woman that caused him to deceive his staff, the media, and the public regarding his mysterious disappearance last Thursday. 

In December, the Associated Press reported that taxpayers had spent $21,488 in 2008 on Sanford trips to China, Argentina, and Brazil, as well as nearly $2,000 in travel from his own office.

It was revealed Monday that Sanford had taken a law enforcement Surburban last week and had not been heard from since. His wife, his staff, and state law enforcement didn’t know where he was. Late Monday, staff members released statements that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but his car was found Tuesday evening at the Columbia International Airport. Early Wednesday, a reporter from The State newspaper caught up with the governor after he exited a plane from Argentina at an Atlanta airport.

A tearful Sanford was very candid with reporters on Wednesday about the relationship, saying it was a woman that he met eight years ago.

“About a year ago it sparked as something more than that,” he told the Statehouse crowd.

Though Sanford said he would resign his chairmanship from the Republican Governors Association, he suggested he would not resign as governor, instead suggesting he would be touring the state and asking for forgiveness. 

Here’s how it all went down, along with a few guesses.

July 29, 2002:

At a campaign luncheon for Mark Sanford’s gubernatorial campaign, President George Bush apologizes for his wife, who could not be there. He tells the audience, “she’s hiking.”

March and April: 

Sanford repeatedly references Argentinian history in his opposition to the federal stimulus.

Monday, July 15:

In talking with reporters about hurricane preparation, Gov. Sanford almost sounds jealous of his wife and kids on the beach.

“Jenny and the kids are camped out at Sullivan’s enjoying the evening breeze and I’m back in Columbia and I can’t find it,” Sanford says.

Thursday, June 18:

According to a report Monday from The State newspaper, Gov. Mark Sanford leaves his Columbia mansion in a black Suburban typically used by his security detail.

Sanford’s begins writing in a journal. It was something along the lines of: “When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor …”

A cell tower near an Atlanta airport picks up Sanford’s cell phone signal for the last time.

His phones, both public and private, are then apparently turned off.

He also turns off that bitch in the GPS unit that sent him in the wrong direction to get to the Appalachians.


State Sen. Jake Knotts (R-Lexington) gets confirmation from SLED that law enforcement doesn’t know where the governor is.

Sanford’s writings continue, with something like, “We are the subjects of an experiment which is not a little interesting to me. Can we not do without society of our gossips a little while under these circumstances, — have our own thoughts to cheer us.”


Jenny Sanford tells reporters that the governor missed Father’s Day and that she doesn’t know where he is. “He’s writing something and wanted some space from the kids,” she says.

Anonymous sources in the administration also confirm that the governor has not checked in since leaving Thursday.

Spokesman Joel Sawyer’s first statement claims the governor is “taking some time away from the office this week to recharge after the stimulus battle and the legislative session and to work on a couple of projects that have fallen by the wayside.”

Dart board and map seen rolling into Statehouse.

Late Monday:

As national attention grows, with S.C. reporters and Lt. Gov. André Bauer getting face time on news networks, Sawyer releases a second statement claiming the office knew (generally) where he was all along: hiking the Appalachian Trail. “We knew that he would be difficult to reach, and that he would be checking in infrequently.”

To this point, ‘infrequently’ had been five days. Former employees familiar with Sanford’s spirit quests say that is unusual.

Tuesday Morning:

Sanford allegedly checks in with his chief of staff. Learning about the hubub, he says he’ll return to office on Wednesday.

“It would be fair to say the governor was somewhat taken aback by all of the interest this trip has gotten,” says spokesman Joel Sawyer.

The spokesman either refuses to say or doesn’t know if Sanford is alone on his hike.


Bloggers hit on a few odd details, including $600,000 the Appalachians received in stimulus money and the fact that Father’s Day was naked hiking day on the trail.

Unable to get into the mansion, Bauer is seen pushing his race car bed into the governor’s office.

Tuesday afternoon:

At 4:15 p.m., CNN reports from Jenny Sanford’s front yard on Sullivan’s Island that, regardless of an alleged phone call to staff earlier in the day, she still had not heard from her husband. “I’m being a mom today,” she tells the news network. “I have not heard from my husband. I am taking care of my children.”

Meanwhile, Greenville TV station WYFF reports that an unnamed federal agent says he spotted Sanford boarding an unknown plane in the Atlanta airport. Sanford’s office calls the report “wrong.”

WYFF also alludes to a mysterious car in the parking lot but, an hour later, CNN finds what appears to be the governor’s surburban at the Columbia airport (complete with a parking pass for the boys’ school). The reporter notes that running shoes, shorts, a ball cap, and a sleeping bag are still sitting in the car.

According to CNN, Sawyer hedges his statement, saying that, as far as he knew, Sanford was on the trail.

Wednesday morning:

The State finds the governor in Atlanta after a week-long trip to Argentina.

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