COLUMBIA, S.C. — After a week that offered the world a glimpse into the conflicted mind of philandering South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, his constituents differed Friday on whether he should leave office.
Some said the decision should be up to his wife, Jenny. And it’s a safe bet that his political future is a topic of conversation as the Sanford family spends the holiday weekend in Florida, where her parents live.
But others, including influential lawmakers, said Sanford must resign after misleading the public about his loyalty to family and trips to see his mistress.
Sanford admitted a yearlong affair with an Argentine woman after he returned from South America on June 24 following a puzzling, five-day absence from the state. He had ditched his security detail and misled staffers who told reporters he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
“We can never trust him again,” said Pam Johnson, a 45-year-old nurse from Greenville who has three teenage children. “What a hypocrite. He betrayed his family. He betrayed his state. South Carolina has become a national joke. He just needs to go.”
In interviews with The Associated Press over two days, Sanford described how his friendship with the woman over years of e-mailing always contained a spark of passion, which ignited when the two first got physical during a state economic development trip in 2008. He also admitted he “crossed lines” with a handful of other women during 20 years of marriage, but said he did not go as far as he did with his mistress.
The governor told the AP he considers Maria Belen Chapur his “soul mate” but wants to follow a plan advocated by friends, family and religious advisers who believe he can rely on faith to recommit himself to his wife and marriage.
In a statement Thursday, Jenny Sanford said she will consider forgiving him, but he has a lot of work to do.
“Mark has stated that his intent and determination is to save our marriage, and to make amends to the people of South Carolina,” she said. “I hope he can make good on those intentions.”
Will Davis, a 29-year-old Greenville mechanic, said if Jenny Sanford is trying to make the marriage work, then the public also “should give him another chance.” But he warned that any more allegations of affairs or misspent state money would end Mark Sanford’s career.