Less than a minute after taking the floor Wednesday at a Rotary Club of Beaufort luncheon, Gov. Mark Sanford addressed the scandal that has jeopardized his political future and led many state legislators to call for his resignation.
"I let a bunch of y'all down," Sanford said of his yearlong extramarital affair with an Argentine woman that came to light in May. "I apologize, but this isn't an apology tour.
"The true measure of all of our lives is what we do when we get knocked down or we make a mistake. You may not do it on the epic level that I did, but the conversation isn't how does the General Assembly get back up or how does Mark Sanford get up from this, but as South Carolinians, where do we go from here?"
Sanford spoke for around 30 minutes at the luncheon at St. Peter's Catholic Church on Lady's Island. He pointed out a handful of "specific, measurable and achievable" changes he hopes to bring about in the final 15 months of his term. Topics included changes to state law that would allow candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket, reducing government spending and creating jobs in the private sector.
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With his once promising political future in tatters, Sanford said he and the legislature might finally be able to get down to business.
"Before people would say, 'Oh, Mark Sanford's going to run for president, so I'm not going to give him a political victory so he can put another feather in his cap,' " Sanford said. "I think we all know now that I ain't running for president. Maybe now we can have a real conversation about what we're going to do about the issues facing our state. We could have the most productive legislative session in my six and a half years as governor."
Sanford's last legislative session as governor begins in January. Meanwhile, the S.C. Ethics Commission is investigating his travel expenses and use of campaign funds.
State Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, who helped orchestrate Sanford's visit on Wednesday, said the ongoing investigation should not distract voters from the important issues facing South Carolina.
"There's an investigation going on in Columbia, and that's where it ought to stay," Erickson said. "In hearing people's comments to the governor, it all comes back to the task at hand. It's about getting back to business."
Erickson was one of only 11 of the 72-member S.C. House Republican Caucus who did not sign a letter last week asking the governor to resign. She said she needed to see the outcome of the investigation before making a decision.
Before Wednesday's appearance at the Rotary Club, Sanford had breakfast with 20 to 30 people in Sun City Hilton Head and later toured several small businesses to talk to local business owners about the economic conditions the state's businesses are facing and how to move forward, according to the Governor's Office.
"There's a proverbial echo chamber that exists in Columbia," Sanford said. "When you get out and you talk to the working people across this state, there are just different motivations. They aren't trying to advance their political careers. They're just trying to put food on the table."