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SC gov gambles to ‘lay it all out’ about affair

COLUMBIA, S.C. – After days of assuring the public he was firmly in control after admitting a scandalous affair, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford detailed other encounters with his Argentine “soul mate,” dalliances with women before her, and his struggle to salvage his 20-year marriage.

Sanford, who last week used a televised news conference to throw himself on the mercy of the public, state leaders and his wife, chronicled his affair and tortured emotions in interviews with The Associated Press Monday and Tuesday. This time, he said, he wanted to “lay it all out.”

But as more details of his private life spill out, what Sanford has done in the name of love is too much even for some of his friends in state government.

“He’s lost the moral authority to lead our state, so he needs to step down for the good of our state,” said state Sen. Larry Grooms, who said he called the governor and asked him to resign.

Others in Sanford’s party predict his departure from public life is just a matter of time, and several state newspapers urged him to go.

“There’s just no way he’ll be able to continue as governor,” said Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, a Gaffney Republican who said he’s concerned about inconsistencies in Sanford’s accounts. “I’m really concerned about his mental well being.”

In all, 10 of 27 state GOP senators as of Tuesday have called for him to step down. Republicans control the state legislature.

At least six South Carolina newspapers called on Sanford to resign. The Greenville News said Sanford “has destroyed any shred of credibility with his lies unnecessarily added on top of other lies.”

Sanford, the once-promising presidential prospect, agreed to first sit down with the AP hours after attending a state budget meeting Monday and giving television interviews about the need to stay in office. Over the course of two days, he said he was fit to lead and ready to fix a broken marriage.

“I don’t want to blow up my time in politics,” he told the AP. “I don’t want to blow up future earning power, I don’t want to blow up the kids’ lives. I don’t want to blow up 20 years that we’ve invested. But if I’m completely honest, there are still feelings in the way. If we keep pushing it this way, we get those to die off, but they’re still there and they’re still real.”

He has trouble, he said, shutting down the love he feels for Maria Belen Chapur, the Argentine woman he first met in 2001.

Sanford also said he’s “crossed the lines” with a handful of other women during 20 years of marriage, but not as far as he did with Chapur and not since the two met.

“Without wandering into that field we’ll just say that I let my guard down in all senses of the word without ever crossing the line that I crossed with this situation,” he said, referring to his affair with Chapur.

He insists he can fall back in love with his wife, Jenny, even as he witnesses his “own political funeral.”

Sanford detailed more encounters with his mistress than he had disclosed during a rambling, emotional news conference last week. The new revelations Tuesday led the state attorney general to launch an investigation of Sanford’s travels to check on taxpayer money.

Sanford delivered a personal check late Tuesday for nearly $3,000 to reimburse the state for a 2008 state-funded trip to Argentina where he visited Chapur, and he insists no public money was used for any other meetings.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, a Charleston Republican who would chair any forced ouster of the governor by the GOP-controlled Legislature, said calls to remove Sanford should await the results of the state investigation.

Among the additional visits with Chapur that Sanford detailed was an encounter that he described as a failed attempt at a farewell meeting in New York this past winter, chaperoned by a spiritual adviser and sanctioned by his wife soon after she found out about the affair.

Sanford said he saw Chapur five times over the past year, including two romantic, multi-night stays with her in New York — one in Manhattan, one in the Hamptons, both paid for in cash so no one would know — before they met in the city again with the intention of breaking up.

Four months later, he got on a plane to Argentina for another rendezvous with Chapur when he made an important discovery. “I will be able to die knowing that I had met my soul mate,” he said.