Gov. Mark Sanford tried to get back to work Friday, apologizing to his Cabinet, comparing himself to the biblical figure David and retreating to the familiar territory of federal stimulus money and declining state revenue estimates.
Friday’s anything-but-normal Cabinet meeting was Sanford’s first official business since admitting Wednesday to an affair with a woman from Argentina.
Sanford also reaffirmed he had no plans to resign and that he had only been unfaithful to his wife, Jenny, once.
Sanford’s denial of other infidelities can after a Web site run by a former Sanford staffer on Friday named two other alleged lovers.
“The governor made it 100 percent clear on Wednesday that this particular relationship is the only time he has been unfaithful to his wife,” said spokesman Joel Sawyer.
Sanford apologized to his staff, singling out State Law Enforcement director Reggie Lloyd and Secretary of Commerce Joe Taylor.
Sanford met with his mistress while on a taxpayer-funded Commerce Department trip last year. He has agreed to repay the more than $8,000 for his travel to Brazil and Argentina.
Last week, Sanford slipped his SLED security detail while staff misled Lloyd and his agency about his whereabouts.
“I owe that (an apology) to you,” Sanford said. “I put you all in a bad spot.”
Sanford told his team they were the “epicenter” of his administration and have specific duties to South Carolinians.
Sanford then compared himself to the Bible’s David, who slept with another man’s wife, had him killed and then married the woman.
“He fell in very significant ways but was able to pick up the pieces,” Sanford said.
Lloyd, who publicly had criticized Sanford, said the governor was contrite.
“It was a blanket apology to the Cabinet,” Lloyd said afterward. “I accept his apology.”
The affair is a private matter between Sanford and his family, Lloyd added.
In other developments:
State Rep. Nikki Haley, a Lexington Republican and Sanford ally, urged the governor not to resign for the sake of the reform movement he initiated: limited, accountable government, lower spending and an emphasis on the market.
Haley is seeking the GOP nomination for governor and is thought to be Sanford’s chosen successor. In a press release Friday, she said, “I have major concerns about the viability of that movement and the direction our government could take under the lieutenant governor should Governor Sanford resign.”
She added, “South Carolina cannot afford to go back to the good ol’ boy system that so badly serves the taxpayers and undermines our government.”
Pressure continued to build on Sanford, with the man waiting in the wings refusing to choose a side.
Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer would not say Friday whether Sanford should resign.
“I don’t think it’s in my place to make that decision,” Bauer said. “He has got to make the decision as to whether he can juggle everything right now.”
But Bauer, speaking from his 20th floor condo on Senate Street, said Sanford should have passed the state’s chief executive powers to him instead of turning off his cell phone and leaving the country.
“Someone needed to be in charge of our state,” he said.
Two more state Republicans — former S.C. GOP executive director Jay W. Ragley, in an e-mail to Politico, and Randy Page, president of South Carolinians for Responsible Government — urged Sanford to resign.
Page, a former Bauer chief of staff, is an ideological ally of Sanford. His group has helped raise campaign money for candidates aligned with Sanford.
Page said he was not speaking on behalf of SCRG, which advocates vouchers or tax credits for parents of students attending private schools.
“It’s very, very difficult to try and repair a family and govern a state,” Page said.
Despite Sanford’s efforts, things are not yet back to normal, said Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee.
“This is not business as usual, and I don’t think this will be business as usual,” Peeler said.
Staff writers Adam Beam and Clif LeBlanc contributed. Reach O’Connor at (803) 771-8358.