Sanford: End of career in sight

On Tuesday Gov. Mark Sanford found himself fielding questions from the media about his use of state and commercial airplanes.

Mary Ann Chastain

COLUMBIA -- Gov. Mark Sanford said Wednesday that his political career will end when his term expires in 1 1/2 years.

Until then, Sanford said he plans to focus on giving future South Carolina governors, Republican or Democrat, the tools they need to succeed in office.

"This is truly not about Mark Sanford anymore," Sanford said Wednesday morning during a speech to the Twin City Rotary Club in Batesburg-Leesville.

"A lot of folks were convinced that I was running for president. My political days are over."

Sanford apologized to the friendly crowd for letting them down. The two-term Republican governor, barred by state law from running again, has admitted to a yearlong affair with an Argentine woman whom he visited after vanishing on a secret trip in June.

Sanford outlined three priorities for the remainder of his term, mentioning economic development third. He did not outline any plans to bring jobs or industry to the state, which has the nation's fourth-highest jobless rate.

Most of the Democratic and Republican candidates who want to succeed Sanford in 2010 have said job creation will be their top priority.

Sanford limited his comments on economic development to reforming the state's embattled Employment Security Commission.

The commission has been criticized by Sanford and others for having to borrow $441 million in federal money to pay rising unemployment claims. Sanford said Wednesday the commission does not do a good enough job of finding jobs for displaced workers.

"(Sanford) really does not get it," said Carol Fowler, chairwoman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

"He doesn't get that the unemployed are ... suffering because he has done nothing to improve the job situation in this state. He is a complete failure in economic development so far.

"Why does he think he can do better over the next year?"

Sanford said his other priorities are:

• Creating a Department of Administration by combining the administrative functions of several state agencies and the State Budget and Control Board. The department would be overseen by a single director who answers to the governor. A proposal to create an Administration Department twice has passed the South Carolina House but died in the Senate.

• Imposing spending caps to prevent lawmakers from overspending in years when the state has rising revenues and slashing agency budgets when revenues dwindle.