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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Who Will Lead in Sanford II?

The ink is barely dry on Gov. Mark Sanford's convincing reelection win and speculation is already rampant about who will lead the governor's senior staff during a second term.

Of course we all know who the real Chief of Staff (COS) is, but since the departure of Fred Carter in 2004, Sanford really hasn't had a formal COS in his office, choosing to split the duties among different staffers.

Carter himself was a transitionary COS, never giving up his full-time job as President of Francis Marion University, and oddly enough, the most influential member of Sanford's first administration (other than the First Lady) wasn't a COS, it was his Communications Director, Chris Drummond.

FITS has learned, however, that jockeying for the Chief of Staff position in Sanford's second term is intense.

According to our sources, the person the governor wants to fill the position is Tom Davis, his former Co-Chief of Staff, Legislative Director and a key 2002/2006 fundraiser and campaign advisor. Davis is a rarity in Columbia - he's a Sanford guy who has excellent relationships with the General Assembly, the media and the lobby. Well-known, well-liked and well-respected on both sides of the aisle (and in all corners of the echo chamber), Davis has been been the governor's friend and supporter since the two were in college together at Furman. If Sanford II is going to yield any substantive compromises between the executive and legislative branches, Davis will be the bridge.

The person who wants the job most, according to our reports, is Senior Policy Advisor Scott English, a key 2002 advisor and Sanford's Legislative Director during the governor's six years in the U.S. Congress. English was rumored to be departing the administration following the November election to return to his native Maryland, but the Democratic takeover in D.C. may have soured those plans. Known not-so-affectionately around the State House as "Dr. No," English might as well have "Bad Cop" tatooed on his forehead. If he doesn't get the COS job, FITS hears English will insist on a Cabinet-level position. Loudly.

In looking at Chief of Staff candidates, let's not forget the glue that held a young, inexperienced Governor's Staff together during much of Sanford I, Chief Legal Counsel and Co-COS Henry White. Steady, imperturbable and largely unconcerned with the intrigues and power plays going on around him, White's future aspirations seem more focused on the judicial branch of government than Sanford's executive, however.

Stay tuned ... the first critical personnel decision of Sanford's second term could come within the next 10 days.

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