An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of James Guth, a political scientist at Furman University. This version has been corrected.
Bauer, Sanford's Lieutenant Governor in South Carolina, Draws New Attention
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
With every word South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) utters about his extramarital affair, his would-be successor leaps closer to a job that he wants dearly but that many leaders in the state's fractured Republican Party have been scheming to keep from him.
As the spectacular drama that is unraveling Sanford's political career enters its second week, the boyish Lt. Gov. André Bauer (R) has stood at the ready. Bauer and Sanford do not get along, and Bauer said he has talked with the governor only once since his confession last week.
"The basic gist was that he's 'going to be a better man because of this,' and I told him I was 'praying for he and his family,' " Bauer said in an interview yesterday. "It lasted less than a minute."
Bauer's chances to ascend seemed to escalate yesterday, as Sanford stunned his state again by admitting in an interview that he "let his guard down" and had casual encounters with a handful of women before meeting the Argentine mistress he called his soul mate.
Sanford's continuing confession of adultery, coupled with a request yesterday by the state's Republican attorney general, Henry McMaster, for an investigation of Sanford's travel records to determine whether he misused public money, intensified pressure on the two-term governor to resign after his political hopes had been seesawing.
"A lot of the reticence on [Sanford's] part to step down and a lot of the reticence on the part of others to ask him to step down was because of a distrust in the ability of the lieutenant governor," said Will Folks, Sanford's former gubernatorial spokesman. "I think that perception was turned dramatically today. Right now, people are wondering what on Earth the governor is doing by compounding this."
In an emotional interview with the Associated Press from his State House office yesterday, Sanford said he made physical contact with a number of women but "didn't cross the sex line" with any of them except Maria Belén Chapur. He said he first met his Argentine mistress in 2001 on the dance floor at an open-air spot in Uruguay and that they had a coffee date in New York during the 2004 Republican National Convention. Sanford recalled visiting with her five times over the past year -- more than previously disclosed -- including two romantic multiple-night stays with her in New York.
Soon after Sanford's wife found out about the affair earlier this year, the governor took a spiritual adviser with him to New York to met Chapur for what was to be their farewell visit. Sanford said that Chapur is his soul mate but that he is trying to fall back in love with his wife, Jenny.
"This was a whole lot more than a simple affair; this was a love story," the two-term governor told the AP. "A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day."
Sanford said his encounters with other women occurred on foreign trips he took with male friends to "blow off steam." The trips occurred while he was married but before he met Chapur, he said, adding that he "never crossed the ultimate line" with the women.
In South Carolina, Sanford's new admissions centered attention on Bauer, who has his own record of erratic behavior, and the prospect that it would fall to him to restore public trust has worried some GOP leaders.
"Everybody's holding their breath wondering, 'What if he did become governor?' " said James Guth, a political scientist at Furman University.