Sanford: political foes see "blood in the water"

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Were Governor Mark Sanford's trips on state and commercial planes always legit? At least one state lawmaker says that's not the case.

Sen. David Thomas says Sanford violated state law with at least two international trips.

The governor is also responding to criticism of his flights in state aircraft.

In October 2003 Sanford moved to slash spending on state aircraft, with the state $350 million in the red.

Sanford ordered the Department of Natural Resources to sell off a single-engine Cessna while the State Law Enforcement Division got rid of one of its helicopters.

The governor found almost a million more in revenue by eliminating the state's share of a Hawker jet used by his predecessor, Jim Hodges, and state Dept. of Commerce officials.

"In these budget times, we need to do things a little differently," said Sanford.

Ironically, the governor's reputation for penny-pinching is under heavy fire over air travel.

"I think we have tried to stay true to that standard of watching out for the taxpayer within the context of adhering to practices that have been long employed," said Sanford.

"Maybe we were politically naïve to be leaving notes in terms of our schedule. If I'm on the way back in and say 'look, I'm going to go get a haircut on the way back in,' then that becomes quote -- if you look at that quote -- 'to go to my favorite discount hair salon.' In this case let's be clear about that quote hair salon was. Hair salon was at Great Clips. It'll cost you 11 bucks for a haircut, and they don't take appointments," said Sanford.

The scrutiny follows Sanford's admission that he was having an extramarital affair with an Argentine woman.

On a more personal note -- and almost everything the governor does these days has a personal element to it -- Sanford says he is not getting a divorce. He says he's doing the best he can to juggle the demands of his office and the demands of being a father.

"I've got a busy life and I've tried as best I can within the context of the current mess-up, that has been more than well-chronicled and more than well-talked about, to be a reasonable father while at the same time being a, you know, good governor," said Sanford.

The governor says his critics and the media are focusing on flights that amount to less than two percent of his air travel.

He says that means he's gotten it right more than 98 percent of the time.

He also says he realizes that after his admission about the affair, his political foes see -- as he put it -- "blood in the water."

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