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Gov. returning to S.C. after worries over whereabouts

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Lieutenant governor, Sanford's wife: We still haven't heard from governor
  • Democratic congressman blasts Gov. Mark Sanford's hiking trip
  • Spokesman for Sanford say he was hiking along Appalachian Trail
  • Governor's whereabouts were unknown after his bruising fight with Legislature
By Peter Hamby
CNN
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COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) -- Gov. Mark Sanford will return to his office Wednesday following widespread confusion over his whereabouts, a spokesman for the South Carolina Republican said.

Gov. Mark Sanford was hiking along the Appalachian Trail, a spokesman said late Monday.

Gov. Mark Sanford was hiking along the Appalachian Trail, a spokesman said late Monday.

Joel Sawyer, Sanford's communications director, also said in a statement the governor called his chief of staff Tuesday morning and was "somewhat taken aback by all of the interest this trip has gotten."

The mystery surrounding his whereabouts was solved late Monday when a Sanford spokesman said he was hiking along the Appalachian Trail.

"I apologize for taking so long to send this update, and was waiting to see if [we had] a more definitive idea of what part of the trail he was on before we did so," Sawyer said in an e-mail to reporters.

Sanford's whereabouts were unaccounted for earlier this week when he stepped out of the public eye after a bruising session with the state Legislature.

His wife, Jenny, told CNN on Tuesday afternoon that she still had not heard from her husband.

"I am being a mom today. I have not heard from my husband. I am taking care of my children," she said outside the couple's beach home on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina.

In Monday night's e-mail to reporters, Sawyer said he wanted "to emphasize that this isn't something that either staff or Mrs. Sanford is concerned about."

"As we said earlier today, it isn't unusual for the governor to be out of pocket for several days after the legislative session," Sawyer wrote. "We knew that he would be difficult to reach, and that he would be checking in infrequently. Given the media attention this has generated, we'll obviously update you once we have some more specifics to pass along."

Earlier, Sawyer said, "Before leaving last week, he let staff know his whereabouts and that he'd be difficult to reach. Should any emergencies arise between the times in which he checks in, our staff would obviously be in contact with other state officials as the situation warrants before making any decisions."

However, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said Tuesday that Sanford's office had inaccurately told him it was in touch with the governor at a time when it was unsure of his whereabouts. Bauer, who learned of Sanford's absence on Sunday, said he still had not heard from the governor, and is getting his updates on the situation from media reports.

He also said that Sanford's political views, coupled with his decision to cut off communication for several days, had put the governor at serious risk. Video Watch Bauer talk about Sanford's absence »

"I am not here to judge our governor. I think more than anything I think a lot of people are concerned about his safety," said Bauer, who, like Sanford, is a Republican. "... There's a lot of people who know who he is. There are a lot of people who would not favor his politics.

"And we know there are many individuals out there who are unstable that would like to make a name for themselves by approaching someone in a high-profile position, and that's why people that are governors of states have security, and so for him to not even be known what state he is in, concerns us."

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina, said Tuesday that Sanford should have told Bauer he would be traveling out of state before embarking on a hiking trip.

"I wish he had called the lieutenant governor and at least alerted him to the fact that he was going to be out of pocket," Clyburn said. "That way we would not have any kind of possible crisis."

But Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, said he understands the need for politicians to escape from the public eye every now and then. "I think that we give up a lot of our privacy when we get into public office," he said.

"I went to the barbershop this morning," Clyburn said. "I didn't tell my security detail. I think a lot of time we do that. So I don't see any real harm in that. But leaving the state is another question."

"I wish he had chosen the Palmetto Trail to hike upon, that way he could have stayed within the state and not created a possible crisis," he said.

State Democrats, meanwhile, are taking Sanford's trip as a political opportunity.

A posting on the South Carolina Democratic Party's Web site invites people to e-mail the party "the questions they most want answered" by Sanford. The posting says the party will send the questions to the governor.

"South Carolinians have been very concerned about Gov. Sanford's actions over the last eight months. They have a right to ask the Governor about our state's unemployment rate, the stimulus and his reasons for abandoning the state," South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler said in a press release.

Another key Democrat -- State Senate Minority Leader John Land -- accused Sanford of engaging in "erratic" behavior.

"We've been concerned by the governor's erratic behavior for some time," Land said in a prepared statement. "We're praying for him and his family. I hope he is safe and that he contacts the first lady and his family soon."

State Sen. Jake Knotts, a fellow Republican and adversary of Sanford, said South Carolina law enforcement officials informed him Saturday that the governor had taken a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division vehicle on Thursday and had not yet returned.

"I found out that he was taking frequent trips at odd times of the night in a SLED car with no security," Knotts said. "He would be driving. I got wind that he had taken another one of these types of capers last Thursday, and that nobody knew who he was with."

Knotts added that on Saturday, he "was getting wind that he had not shown back up and nobody knew where he was."

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He said a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division official told him Monday that Sanford still had not returned.

"He needs to transfer the power and let the lieutenant governor, which the constitution requires, let him be the person that makes the decisions." Knotts said. "My concern was, 'Who would be in charge should an emergency arrive for the safety of the people and citizens of the state?' "

CNN's Ed Hornick and David Mattingly contributed to this report.

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