S.C. Governor Sanford Apologizes to Cabinet, Won't Say if He Will Resign

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford addressed his Cabinet Friday and apologized to them for his recent behavior. Sanford admitted Wednesday to having an affair with a woman in Argentina. Video by AP
By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 27, 2009

COLUMBIA, S.C., June 26 -- Fighting pressure to resign, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford moved to regain control of his government Friday and gave no indication that he will step down, even as the chaos surrounding his week-long disappearance to Argentina and confession of an extramarital affair showed few signs of abating.

The two-term Republican governor evoked Christian Scripture in his first public appearance since admitting the affair two days earlier, saying he is "on that larger voyage that we're all on in life" and that he is merely "trying to survive the day." But with leaders in his own party openly questioning his public abandonment and private infidelity, Sanford's survival appears to rest in the larger political calculus at play in this GOP-dominated state.

South Carolina historically has had a weak governor and a powerful legislature. With just 18 months before Sanford is term-limited out of office, Republican leaders of the General Assembly are calculating that they may prefer he remain as a lame duck than see Lieutenant Gov. André Bauer (R) -- who is relatively inexperienced and, like Sanford, known for erratic behavior -- ascend to the office.

And so after deceiving his staff and the public about his whereabouts and escaping his security detail last week, after breaking away from a state-funded trade mission to South America last summer to rendezvous with his mistress, Sanford, 49, may remain in power.

"I think there is a remarkable capacity for forgiveness in the state," he told a mob of reporters chasing him up the granite steps of the Civil War-era Capitol here.

Referencing the biblical King David, Sanford added: "David failed, literally, and yet he reconstructed his life, put it back together and became a guy who was after God's spirit. So I would say I'm on the larger voyage. I won't say anything definitive. My hunch would be that it's a good example with regard to my boys -- if you fall down in life, that you get back up. I think it's a good example from the standpoint of the larger voyage of humility."

After beginning to repair his relationship with his wife, Jenny, and their four sons, Sanford on Friday sought to demonstrate that he is back to business. He assembled his Cabinet secretaries around a long mahogany table for a meeting that was remarkable because of the governor's seamless transitions between apologizing for his personal indiscretions and requesting updates on stimulus spending, revenue estimates and hurricane-season preparations. And it was aired on live television.

"I wanted generally to apologize to every one of you all for letting you down," Sanford told his Cabinet. "Part of what it means going forward is every one of you all has specific duties to the people of South Carolina that you have to perform, and that is with or without regard to me doing right on a given day or doing wrong on a given day."

A few seats away from Sanford was Reggie Lloyd, director of the state Law Enforcement Division, responsible for Sanford's security. Lloyd told reporters Thursday in an unusually frank conference call that Sanford deceived his agents, who anxiously searched for him over Father's Day weekend.

"I owe it to you, Reggie, for putting you in a bad place," Sanford told Lloyd.

By the governor's actions Friday, state Sen. John C. Land III (D) surmised: "It appears that he's going to ride it out. The question is whether the waves will get too rough."

At the Sanford family home in Sullivan's Island, meanwhile, Jenny Sanford told the Associated Press that she discovered her husband's affair in January when she found a letter his mistress had written to him. She said she told the governor to break off the relationship and was shocked this week when she learned he had gone to Argentina to see her, having believed her husband had gone someplace else to work on writing a book. She said she plans to take their boys out of the state this weekend.

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