Governor attempts return to normalcy

COLUMBIA --- It was a routine state Cabinet meeting, one with reports on declining tax revenues, the number of kids on Medicaid and an update on a drunken driving campaign.

Routine, except for the 20-plus television cameras and reporters scrunched into a tiny room in a building next to the state's Capitol. They were there to watch Gov. Mark Sanford conduct his first official meeting since making a very public -- and torturous -- admission that although has been married for 20 years, he'd carried on a passionate love affair with a woman in Argentina.

None of the 12 Cabinet members present during Friday's meeting asked Mr. Sanford about the romance. They didn't have to.

It had been the stuff of tabloid headlines and intrigue since he returned to South Carolina Wednesday after jetting off to Argentina for a secret rendezvous with his mistress.

Mr. Sanford kicked off the meeting by apologizing to each of them as cameras clicked and reporters scribbled notes and recorded it all.

At one point, he likened his confession and future to the biblical plight of King David -- and looks of nervousness and incredulity crept into the officials' faces. But Mr. Sanford was all business.

"What's it all mean and where do we go from here? I have been doing a lot of soul searching on that front," he said. "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 me doing right on a given day or doing wrong at a given day, those responsibilities still exist."

The Cabinet then updated the governor on affairs of the state that he had abandoned for nearly a week while in Argentina.

South Carolina, the agency heads reported, isn't doing well: Sales tax revenues are down 8 percent and the individual income tax revenue is down 16 percent. The day after he left, the state's jobless rate set a new record as the nation's third highest.

The only good news, which yielded a tension-relieving chuckle, came from Corrections Department head Jon Ozment, who reported cows at the prison are producing lots of manure.

Post-meeting, some cabinet members said Mr. Sanford handled himself well Friday.

"There's nothing to be accomplished by rehashing this over and over. The needs of the people of South Carolina are more important than the personal issues," said Buck Limehouse, the head of the state's transportation department.

EXTRA VISITS

COLUMBIA, --- State officials said Friday that South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford asked for extra economic development meetings in Argentina during a trip that brought him to Buenos Aires, where his mistress lived.

Commerce Department spokeswoman Kara Borie said Friday that official plans had been made to visit only Brazil on an expenses-paid economic recruitment trip the governor took last year.

But Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor planned to stay longer at his own expense in Cordoba in Argentina for a hunting trip and invited the governor and others to come.

Mr. Sanford did conduct business while he was in Buenos Aires, although Ms. Borie said no economic development projects have come from them.

As of Thursday, Mr. Sanford had paid for none of it, including the hunting trip, but he announced that day he would reimburse the state for the Argentina leg.

-- Associated Press