Another sex scandal in South Carolina politics 

Greetings from Columbia, South Carolina, where another top state official finds himself in the middle of a sex scandal. This time it is the Republican state Comptroller General, Richard Eckstrom, who is married and had an affair -- painfully illustrated in a series of leaked e-mails -- with Kelly Payne, a divorced teacher who is running for the GOP nomination for state superintendent of education.

Eckstrom is 61 and close to South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who barely managed to stay in office after his own spectacular sex scandal. Kelly is 40 and divorced. Eckstrom's campaign told The State newspaper that he is separated from his wife.

The leaked e-mails are all from Eckstrom to Payne. Spanning from April 2009 to just a few days ago, they portray a turbulent relationship. In the words of a report in The State, "In the e-mails, Eckstrom expresses his love for Payne, 40, quotes Scripture and acknowledges he has ducked out of meetings with the governor, agency heads and the Budget and Control Board to take her calls." In one passage, written last June when the couple was apparently having troubles, Eckstrom tells Payne, "You're a remarkable girl!! I'm so comforted that you're a Christian. We'll be able to frolic together in Heaven one day!"

The e-mails have appalled and embarrassed social conservatives here, who supported Eckstrom's efforts to reform state government. Nevertheless, Eckstrom's campaign says he will continue his run for re-election (he is unopposed). It is not clear whether Payne will remain in the race.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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