State GOP censures Sanford

COLUMBIA – South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has survived a state law enforcement probe into his travel records and lasted through the long holiday weekend after revelations of his affair with an Argentine mistress.

 

But fellow Republican officials who have been hearing plenty from unhappy constituents said Monday the governor, who refuses to step down, is on anything but solid ground. State GOP leaders voted to censure him Monday night, a formal reprimand that has no practical consequences.

"I think folks are embarrassed about what's happened and what's reflected on the state. I think folks are pretty well disgusted with the whole thing," said state Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens

Sanford spent the weekend in Florida with Jenny Sanford and their four sons following his confessions of an affair with a woman he told the Associated Press he considers his "soul mate." The Sanfords say they plan to try to reconcile and the governor insists he will not step aside before the end of his final 18 months in office.

On Monday, Sanford's office said the governor attended a closed briefing on port security in Charleston, but he skipped a news conference with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and other officials. Later, he issued a statement on a suspected serial killer in Gaffney, asking residents "to join my family and me in prayer for the grieving families of the victims."

Last week, state law enforcement officials said they found the governor did not improperly use state money during the six meetings he admitted having with the Argentine woman, Maria Belen Chapur, since he's taken office. He told the AP he met her in 2001 while on a trip to Uruguay, and the two friends did not become physically involved until he saw her during a 2008 state economic development trip to Argentina.

Martin said he was not satisfied with the state law enforcement probe that relied on the governor's recollections and his financial records. "If he plans to stay in office, I certainly would support a more thorough investigation," Martin said.

Graham, one of Sanford's closest political allies and the godfather of one of his sons, said the governor has started to work on his marriage.

"He had a good weekend with the family," Graham said. "My hope is and continues to be that he can reconcile with his family and repair the damage done to his family and with the constituents of South Carolina and can finish out his term. That is still my belief and that is still my hope, and I believe that is possible."

The state GOP censured Sanford after more than three hours of discussion Monday night, with 22 executive committee members voting for the public reprimand. Ten voted to ask him to resign, and nine voted to support the governor.

The resolution said Sanford's conduct has fallen "below the standards expected of Republican elected officials, has breached the public's trust and confidence in his ability to effectively perform the duties of his office."

The resolution also said it is the last word about the matter unless there are more revelations about the governor.

Sanford immediately released a statement.

"The governor fully appreciates the party's position, and he intends to work diligently to earn back its trust," spokesman Joel Sawyer said.

Before the meeting, Susan Aiken, a GOP executive committee member from Anderson County, said her county's party activists want Sanford out. But Dan Herren in neighboring Greenville County said his activists are divided.

The most compelling argument for Sanford staying, Herring said, is that the governor hasn't broken any law. But even those people "are saying if he did break laws he certainly should go," Herren said.

Meanwhile, the state House Republican leader says he's encouraging members to be mindful of their words in case they need to sit in judgment of the governor. Any impeachment proceeding would begin in the House, though no House member has called for that.

"If we're the body that has to sit as a grand jury of impeachment, I want to sit and do it fairly," said House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham, R-West Columbia.

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