- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 4, 2009

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 Mrs. Sanford’s parents live.

Others, including influential lawmakers, said the Republican governor must resign after misleading the public about his loyalty to family and trips to see his mistress.

Mr. 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.”

Mr. Sanford has described in detail in press interviews 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 said 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, Mrs. Sanford said that she will consider forgiving him but that he has a lot of work to do.

Will Davis, a 29-year-old Greenville mechanic, said if Mrs. 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 the governor’s career.

“You can lie to us once, and you ask for forgiveness,” Mr. Davis said. “But the second time, that’s a different story.”

The governor’s weekend departure to join his family in Florida came a day after his wife’s statement and one other piece of encouraging news for the governor: State police said they found no evidence he illegally used taxpayer money to pay for six trips to see Chapur in Argentina and New York.

But many politicians remain furious.

Glenn McCall, one of the state’s Republican National Committee members, said Mr. Sanford leaving the state for the long holiday weekend may divert some attention from the scandal, but the party needs him to resign before this second, final term ends in 18 months.

He is calling for another look at the travel records, in part because state law enforcement is under the governor’s authority. He is also planning a rally at the State House on Thursday to pressure Mr. Sanford out of office.

“For whatever reason, he’s still here,” Mr. McCall said Friday. “I’m praying he uses his time so he and his family can discuss not only the family and healing that needs to take place there, but what’s best from a political perspective.”

Frank and Denise Walker - Columbia residents married for 23 years - said politics are of little consequence for Mr. Sanford after he showed the world he did not respect his wife.

Asked if she would give her husband a second chance after such an indiscretion, Denise Walker slipped her arm around him and smiled.

“I would be a widow,” she said.

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