The man who would replace South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford if he resigned over his extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina said Friday he wasn't calling for the governor's resignation, and would try to help him through the next year and a half.
Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, a fellow Republican, told The Associated Press that he spoke to Sanford on Thursday and "could tell he had done a lot of soul searching." The two, who have not been allies and did not run on the ballot together as a team, didn't discuss the possibility of the governor stepping down.
"Mark Sanford is still my governor and regardless of what his decision is, I'm going to stand by and try to help him," Bauer told AP in his first interview since Sanford admitted to the affair Wednesday.
While others have called for Sanford's resignation, the governor planned a meeting of state agency heads Friday.
Sanford disappeared to Buenos Aires last week, returning Wednesday to reveal the affair and publicly apologize to his wife and four sons, his supporters and constituents. He also resigned as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
Sanford said he left his staff with the impression he was heading off for some solo hiking in a nearby state, a bogus story that they relayed to reporters who began asking where the governor had gone.
He didn't tell the lieutenant governor where he was, and Bauer said he was rebuffed by Sanford's staff when he tried to find out. Sanford faces questions about whether he broke the law when he disappeared without transferring power.
The governor has not addressed the legal questions, but Sanford on Thursday said he would pay back an undisclosed amount for the nine-day trip to Brazil and Argentina for which taxpayers paid $12,000 last year. That includes $8,687 for Sanford's plane ticket, and $453 in lodging.
"I made a mistake while I was there in meeting with the woman who I was unfaithful with," the governor said in a statement.
That revelation came a day after a rambling news conference during which a pained Sanford admitted to three romantic rendezvous with the woman. Sanford spent most of his time Thursday visiting with his family at their coastal home on Sullivans Island. Asked whether he was resigning, Sanford shook his head no as he departed.
"I right now am focused on the important part of this -- the family in this circumstance," he said.
His wife told reporters she was "going to worry about my family and the character of my children" and said as she left for dinner and a boat ride with the boys that her husband's career was his concern. "He'll have to worry about that," she told reporters as she drove away.
Sanford, barred by state law from running for governor again because of term limits, leaves office in 2010. If he were to resign, Bauer -- expected to run for the top spot -- steps into the office. Other candidates are also jockeying for the job.