COLUMBIA, S.C. — Gov. Mark Sanford, a rising Republican star spoken of as a potential presidential contender, struggled to salvage his increasingly precarious political career Thursday.
A top state Republican called for his resignation, and South Carolina's top senator questioned whether Sanford broke the law when he disappeared for several days on a trip to South America to see his mistress and didn't transfer power to the lieutenant governor.
Glenn McCall, one of two national representatives to the Republican National Committee and a county party chairman, said Thursday that party members want Sanford out. He said Sanford should practice the philosophy he's preached of holding GOP leaders accountable.
"He talked about how our leaders have stepped away from our core values and said one thing on the campaign trail or out in the public and did something different in the background," McCall said. "I think our party can recover from this if we hold him accountable and the governor does the right thing and resigns for the sake of the party."
GOP Sen. Glenn McConnell, the state's top senator, said Sanford needed to answer questions about whether taxpayer money was used during the affair, but stopped short of calling for an investigation. Sanford's spokesman has said no state resources were used.
Sanford called a last-minute meeting of his Cabinet and said he would repay the government after travel documents showed he used an earlier state-funded trade trip to Argentina to have a secret romantic rendezvous with the woman known only as Maria.
Sanford's outspoken wife, Jenny, issued a tough-minded statement saying she had thrown her husband out and told him to stop speaking to her while she tries to deal with his infidelity.
The independently wealthy, Georgetown-educated, former Wall Street executive spent part of the day with her husband at their coastal home. Later, she left with some children in her car for what she said was dinner and a boat ride.
Around the copper-domed Civil War-era state Capitol, politicians and constituents voiced disbelief and disgust over Sanford's behavior.
Sanford, 49, suddenly has few defenders as new details emerged Thursday regarding the affair. Sanford led a delegation of state government and business leaders to Brazil and Argentina, for trade meetings from June 21 to 28, 2008. Sanford said he was going sightseeing on June 27 in Buenos Aires, but e-mails show that he was actually spending that day with his mistress.
Sanford's travels cost taxpayers at least $9,000, according to state records. Sanford said in a statement Thursday he would reimburse the state.
Democratic State Rep. J. Todd Rutherford was among those who said Thursday that Sanford should resign. "It is a problem when the CEO of a 4.5 million-person organization goes AWOL and nobody can reach him. It was a gross dereliction of duty."