COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - Gov. Mark Sanford delivered the final State of the State address of his second term Wednesday night before a notably full Legislature in the House chamber. In recent years, legislative standoffs have seen a dwindling attendance during the governor's address.
The speech saw lawmakers rise to their feet on several occasions -- largely at the governor's urging -- to applaud the efforts of lawmakers other than himself on measures that created tax cuts, job opportunities and stiffer drunk-driving laws.
However, the nearly hour-long speech appeared well-received by the Legislature, due in part to the conciliatory tone the governor took throughout the address.
[Read the Democratic response to Sanford's address, delivered by House Minority Leader Harry Ott.]
The speech marked the first time he stood in front of the full legislative body at once since the admission of his affair in June. Expectedly, he did not forego the opportunity to apologize for his indiscretions that put both him and the state in an awkward limelight.
"After this speech, to those of you who have grown weary of my apologizing, rest easy, because I won't do it again...I'm sorry one more time for the situation that I created, and the way I put every one of you in a bad spot," Sanford said.
"The grace of the people of this state has been none other than overwhelming, and to me, it has indeed been a reflection of God's grace," Sanford explained. "It is my hope and prayer that we can work together to make a positive difference in people's lives."
In the apology, he recognized his wife, Jenny, for her grace and poise during the family drama that often played out in the public eye.
Mrs. Sanford did not attend the address.
On policy, Sanford limited the address to a short list of measures that he believed could be accomplished before the body's adjournment just five months away. He called on the Legislature to overhaul the Employment Security Commission, a goal he has spent much of the last year -- when he wasn't apologizing -- trying to accomplish.
"If nothing is done here, taxes will go up on every small, mid-sized, and large business in our state – and I believe that tax increases would hurt job creation in South Carolina. I am joined in that belief by Kenny Bingham and Greg Ryberg – and I thank both of them for leading the charge this year on ESC Reform," said Sanford.
His answer was to combine the efforts of the Department of Commerce with the ESC to create a Department of Workforce that would "more actively coordinating with the Department of Commerce and others to connect those seeking jobs with job opportunities."
Sanford also called on legislators to impose spending caps that "limits government's growth to population plus inflation, and then allocates everything beyond this to first paying down our state's huge unfunded liabilities."
He also called for a bill that would call for the governor and lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket and allow the governor to appoint several constitutional officers who are currently elected. He further asked for the creation of a Department of Administration.
In an address to residents of the state, he called on them to "make loud, but respectful, noise for change," particularly in relation to the mounting federal debt and bailout packages that he said could never create lasting economic growth. In a charge that was reminiscent of last year's State of the State address, he said the residents of the state will face significant tax increases and massive cuts in state services unless they pushed for change.
Almost symbolically, the governor at one point acknowledged a point in his address where he should close but trudged on, taking another opportunity to wax poetic on the accomplishments of his administration and impart two closing thoughts.
First, he charged the Legislature with heeding advice he had been given by his pastor, to "love mercy, do justice and walk humbly."
And second, he relayed the tale of a South Carolina businessman on board the now-famous flight that made an emergency landing in the Hudson River and subsequently changed his focus to those things that truly mattered -- "those things with lasting value."
"If we all strive in this direction I suspect it will make a difference in bringing all of us – Republicans and Democrats, as representatives from the Coast, Midlands, and Upstate – as South Carolinians – together to better the lives of people in our state," said Sanford.
In many ways, the address signaled the beginning of the end for the embattled governor who was once considered a Republican presidential contender but has lost all but his job over an affair with an Argentine woman.
The speech, although laden with praise for programs and policy initiatives that came into being during his tenure, was less a victory lap and more a testament to his political perseverance.