A friendship that 'developed into something much more'

The woman who Gov. Mark Sanford reportedly had an affair with lives on Republica de la India in the Palermo neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Her name is Maria, she lives in a trendy Buenos Aires neighborhood, and as recently as last year she told Gov. Mark Sanford that he was her love.

On Wednesday, Sanford admitted to an extramarital affair with a woman who lives in Argentina who he characterized as a "dear, dear friend." Not much is known about the woman, but a sketch of her is beginning to emerge: She has two children, and Sanford said they met more than eight years ago in South America.

They began to correspond, Sanford said, and early on he offered her reasons not to divorce her husband.

"It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do in just a casual e-mail back and forth," he said Wednesday.

The governor said their friendship grew, and she gave him an outlet to talk outside the bubble of South Carolina and state government. But, over this last year, Sanford said, their relationship "developed into something much more than that."

In e-mails, the two talked about the "hopelessly impossible situation" of their love, and Sanford said he felt vulnerable because "this is ground I have certainly never covered before."

At times, their relationship got quite steamy.

"You have a particular grace and calm that I adore," Sanford wrote in a July 10, 2008, e-mail, according to The State newspaper, which obtained the notes. "You have a level of sophistication that so fitting with your beauty. I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curve of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (of two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of the night's light — but hey, that would be going into sexual details ..."

Steve Brook, managing editor of The State, refused to comment on the e-mails or why the newspaper chose to wait since December to make them public.

"They speak for themselves," he said.

On Wednesday, a correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers went to the woman's apartment on Republica de la India in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Her address was listed in one of the e-mails. The woman refused to comment, and the doorman at the 14-story apartment complex did not recognize a picture of Sanford.

Early Wednesday, hours before Sanford admitted to the affair, political operatives in Columbia were tossing around the names of several women they said were romantically linked to the governor.

Contacted by The Post and Courier, these women denied the claims. One woman said she knew him, but did not particularly like him.