Seeking to shape his political legacy, controversial two-term Gov. Mark Sanford says he will leave office next month with a number of victories.
Yes, unemployment is historically high in recession-ravaged South Carolina. But Sanford says he is pleased the state has added a string of new employers.
And he thinks eight years of preaching low taxes and more disciplined spending has changed the political debate in Columbia.
The state’s next governor, fellow Republican and Sanford protégé Nikki Haley of Lexington, also will have more authority than Sanford did, the fruit, the outgoing governor says, of a campaign that he waged to give the state’s chief executive more responsibility for state government.
Sanford, a former U.S. representative from Charleston, leaves office known for his contentious relationship with lawmakers — which included over-the-top stunts — and a tearful State House press conference in 2009 in which he admitted to an extramarital affair after returning from a secret five-day trip to Argentina. That affair led lawmakers to consider impeaching Sanford and resulted in the governor, who admitted no wrongdoing, paying the largest ethics fine in state history.
But Sanford insists significant portions of his legacy will be determined after he leaves office.
Others, including fellow Republicans, are more critical.
State Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, said Sanford’s goals were noble, but his tactics and inability to compromise undermined his success.
“It’s one thing to use the bully pulpit,” said Merrill, a former House majority leader. “But unless you really do something with it, what have you accomplished?
“I don’t know if it brought anything to the table other than slapping people around.”
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