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GOP split on Sanford continuing as governor

Some Republican state lawmakers are privately saying they want Republican Gov. Mark Sanford to step down - of his own volition - this week.

They do not want to call for his resignation, according to sources close to the situation.

Meanwhile, Sanford has spent portions of the last few days phoning key lawmakers and Republican Party activists, apologizing, for his affair with an Argentine woman that left him out of touch with his staff and other state leaders for the better part of a week.

He has also agreed to repay the state for expenses related to a 2008 trip to Argentina, organized by the state’s Commerce Department, because he met with the woman during the trip.

“(Lawmakers) have given (Sanford) 72 hours of breathing room,” said Katon Dawson, immediate past chairman of the state Republican Party, who said he has spent the last few days playing referee between lawmakers who want the governor out and those who want to give him another chance. “But I think, early next week, their patience will run out.”

That could mean a news conference of lawmakers and party activists, calling for the governor’s resignation, is in the making.

Sanford has apologized for the extramarital affair and repeatedly said to media outlets that he would stay on as governor.

Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, who has been critical of the governor’s absence from the state, said Sunday that senators remain split on whether the governor should resign.

When asked whether he himself would support the governor’s continuing in his post, Peeler would not comment.

The governor still has allies, including House Majority Leader Rep. Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington.

Bingham said the governor called him Thursday evening.

“He did apologize straight up for what he’d done and I certainly accepted his apology and was appreciative of him doing that,” Bingham said.

“He said that he’s going to work real hard to (rebuild people’s trust) and I’m willing to give him a chance. We’ve all got issues, We’ve all got problems. And it’s all about how you deal with it,” Bingham said.

“I feel like it is clearly his decision to decide if he can lead or not. I am willing to give him that opportunity if he wants to take that chance.”

Reach Smith at (803) 771-8658.