Sanford: 'I'm sorry, one more time'

Governor praises wife's 'grace' in handling 'storm' of controversy that his affair brought to state

joconnor@thestate.comJanuary 21, 2010 

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    Gov. Mark Sanford delivered his final State of the State address Wednesday evening.

    Online: Video of Sanford's complete address and the Democratic response, courtesy of ETV, is available at the end of this story.

    Clip: References to Jenny Sanford

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    Highlights of SOS speeches past

    The Ataturk moment. Sanford drew fire from his first State of the State after making a reference to Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, whom many blame for the first modern genocide of Armenians and Christians. Sanford praised Ataturk's transformation of Turkey from a theocratic dynasty to a modernized republic, holding him up as a reformer.

    The olive branch. Sanford issued an olive branch in 2009 to the General Assembly, even co-opting President Barack Obama's "Yes we can" refrain to make a point that he and lawmakers can get along.

    Going Ben Tillman. Sanford evoked Tillman, the turn-of-the century governor, U.S. senator and avowed racist, to illustrate the need to restructure South Carolina's "plantation" government in his 2008 speech.

    Going green. Sanford, a Republican, declared climate change real in 2007 and promised to appoint a commission to study its impact on S.C.

    State of the Union? Nearly half of Sanford's 2005 speech dealt with national and international issues, from the dangers of inflation to the emerging strength of markets and low-cost work forces in China and India. It fueled speculation Sanford held presidential aspirations.

Scroll to the bottom of this story to watch SC ETV's recording of the 2010 State of the State Address

Gov. Mark Sanford offered one more apology to his state and family, and asked to put past differences with lawmakers aside to achieve a handful of goals in his eighth, and final, State of the State address as governor Wednesday.

The 53-minute speech also touched on Sanford's accomplishments during his seven years in office, ticking off changes that have saved money, preserved land or increased public access to records.

The speech was Sanford's first statewide opportunity to discuss his secret five-day June trip to Argentina and subsequent admission of an extramarital affair, and he said the unscripted apology would be his last.

Though Sanford and his wife, Jenny, are divorcing, he thanked her for "her truly phenomenal grace that she showed the world and the state in the storm that I brought to our family and the state at large."

"After this speech, those of you who have grown weary of my apologizing rest easy, because I won't do it again," Sanford later added. "I am compelled to say that I'm sorry, one more time, for the situation I created."

As expected, Sanford laid out three goals he would like to accomplish in his final year:

- Reforming the state's unemployment agency

- Restructuring state government, including putting the governor and lieutenant governor on the same ticket

- And imposing caps on state spending to set aside money in good years to prevent budget cuts

"For the sake of good government," he said, "please give this power to whoever follows me."

Sanford entered office with a long list of goals - ideas he still supports, he said - but recognized his time was limited. With the state facing a half-billion-dollar budget shortfall, Sanford said lawmakers must consider these ideas now.

Sanford has been claiming a more humble leadership style since this summer, and his speech reached out to lawmakers in ways he had not done before. Sanford said a speaker at his inaugural urged him to follow the advice of Micah 6:8, which asks to "love mercy, do justice and walk humbly."

"I never got that charge quite right in the following four years," Sanford said. "I don't know that I ever will."

Sanford thanked many lawmakers in the room by name, including House and Senate leadership with whom he has frequently sparred. At the same time, Sanford did note he had warned during the preceding surplus years of the deep budget cuts the state is now facing.

One area where Sanford said he has not changed his mind: raising the state's lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax. Sanford repeated his position that any cigarette tax increase should include another equivalent tax decrease.

Sanford stepped out just once on national issues, urging state residents to oppose a national health care bill being debated by Congress. The bill, Sanford said, could add thousands of new people to state-funded health care and cost the state $1 billion in the first decade after its passage.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said Sanford's speech resonated with lawmakers.

"He had light applause when he came in the room and he had an extended standing ovation at the end (of his speech)," Harrell said.

But Republican Lexington Sen. Jake Knotts, a frequent Sanford critic, was unimpressed. "I think (the governor) finally realized and recognized the Senate and the House run the state."

Sanford closed his speech with a story about Ric Elias, a passenger who had a near-death experience on the aircraft that crashed in the Hudson River in New York last year. As the plane was going down, Sanford said Elias told him, he let go of the petty issues that had bothered him.

"I'll be trying to follow his lead," Sanford said of Elias. "As we work together over the next 11 months, I hope you will, too."

Video

Courtesy of SC ETV

Gov. Mark Sanford's 2010 State of the State Address

Democratic response, delivered by House Minority Leader Rep. Harry Ott, D-Calhoun

Reach O'Connor at (803) 771-8358.

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