By JIM DAVENPORT
Associated Press Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford headed out of state Wednesday for personal time with his wife, as the two try to reconcile, and skipped a meeting with a top economic adviser ahead of what’s expected to be more bad economic news including rising joblessness.
Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer refused to say where the Sanfords were headed or how they were getting there, but allowed they won’t be traveling with their four sons. Sanford is in the midst of trying to reconcile with first lady Jenny Sanford after a tearful confession of an affair with an Argentine woman, Maria Belen Chapur.
“This trip is personal in nature, and we’re not going to offer any further comment,” Sawyer said. “The governor remains committed to repairing the damage he’s done to his marriage, and so it shouldn’t be any surprise that spending personal time with his wife is a part of that process.”
Sawyer said meetings skipped this week will be rescheduled.
A month ago when the state’s unemployment numbers came out and set a record, Sanford was with Chapur in Argentina. He later called her “the love of his life” and his “soul mate.”
Sanford had no public schedule this week, but had private meetings planned, including one with John Rainey, the chairman of the state Board of Economic Advisors. That state revenue oversight board is expected to reduce its forecast Thursday and likely trigger across-the-board spending cuts at agencies. The state’s spending has fallen by more than $1.2 billion in the past 12 months, or nearly a fifth.
On Friday, the state’s unemployment numbers are expected. South Carolina’s jobless rate in May was 12.1 percent, a record for the state and the nation’s third highest behind Michigan and Oregon. That news broke a day after Sanford slipped his security detail and headed to Argentina.
Legislators aren’t criticizing his effort to repair his marriage, but question his timing and ability to keep his eye on the state’s affairs.
The reconciliation effort “doesn’t negate the fact that we’ve got some serious, critical problems in the budget that is hemorrhaging every day because of the employment situation and the weak economy that requires our best efforts,” said state Sen. Larry Martin, a Pickens Republican who has called on Sanford to resign.
“I think his preoccupation with his personal life right now is certainly expected but doesn’t serve the state very well,” Martin said.
Senate Minority Leader John Land is happy Sanford is working on his family problems, but noted the economy’s ills demand his attention, too. “I think he does need to be here to manage that and to do whatever he can to improve the unemployment rate and the decline in revenue we’re suffering in the state,” said the Manning Democrat.
Sanford, who said he intends to remain in office and repair the damage he’s caused, has had virtually no public schedule since details of his affair emerged from extensive interviews with The Associated Press two weeks ago. The Republican chief executive tearfully described details of the Chapur affair and disclosed dalliances with other women without providing details beyond saying they stopped short of sex.
Sanford had disappeared for six days in June to visit Chapur even though first lady Jenny Sanford had told him not to see the woman again. She had discovered the affair in January and allowed her husband to visit Chapur in New York City to break off the relationship. The Sanfords would later go through weeks of sessions with other couples to save their marriage.
By JIM DAVENPORT