Where in the world are your governors?

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AP-Impromptu checks at governors’ offices nationwide show that most staffs keep close tabs on their bosses — unlike the case of South Carolina’s Mark Sanford.

Columbia, S.C. — — Texas Gov. Rick Perry was raising money at campaign headquarters when an Associated Press reporter called his press staff to ask what he was doing. An hour later, he walked into AP’s Statehouse bureau to show he was alive and well and not, say, in South America for a romantic rendezvous.

Most of the nation’s governors were willing — even eager — to prove they were on the job after revelations that Republican Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina had ditched his security detail and disappeared for a weeklong tryst with a woman in Argentina.

     

The day after Sanford admitted his indiscretion at a tearful, rambling news conference, the Associated Press called governors’ offices nationwide to ask: What’s the boss doing right now?

Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas was at the dentist. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley was fishing with his 10-year-old son. Wisconsin Gov. James E. Doyle was flying back from a Washington speaking engagement, and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was visiting U.S. troops in Eastern Europe.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman was in his office, but a few minutes after a reporter called, he too showed up at the AP’s Capitol bureau — a state trooper, the lieutenant governor and his chief of staff in tow — to jokingly show he could be accounted for.

The AP had problems finding Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who is serving his final term. His spokesman, Bert Brantley, said Perdue had worked at his Capitol office earlier, but he wasn’t sure where the governor was precisely when the AP called. When pressed, Brantley said he would not call the governor just to answer a press inquiry into his whereabouts.

"Even when he’s on a personal day or family time, he still keeps his BlackBerry on him," Brantley said. "There’s not a time when he’s not reachable."

Sanford’s vanishing act had his fellow governors scratching their heads, if not cracking wise. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer began a news conference Wednesday by joking that he was late because he’d been in Venezuela.

"What was he thinking?" said Schweitzer, a Democrat. "Didn’t he think anyone would be watching?"

Impromptu checks by the AP showed most gubernatorial staffs keep close tabs on their bosses.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s love life hasn’t been an obstacle to keeping in touch. Erin Isaac, Crist’s communications director, said: "I talked to the governor 100 times while he was on his honeymoon." Crist got married in December.

Generally, state officials and staffers should be able to locate a governor on a moment’s notice, and the public has a right to know too, said Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center, a Nashville advocacy group that is part of the Freedom Forum.

Besides giving speeches, signing bills and attending ribbon-cuttings, governors must take charge in natural disasters. They command their states’ National Guards. And their personal time can become the public’s business, particularly when they betray people’s trust, Policinski said.

When AP asked where governors were, the most common answer was in the office. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was reviewing bills on the last day of his state’s legislative session. Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry was interviewing a candidate for a judicial appointment.

Even when governors were traveling, staffers had little trouble saying exactly where they were. In Alabama, Gov. Bob Riley’s communications director, Jeff Emerson, knew Riley was landing in Seattle after an economic development trip overseas.

Palin’s spokeswoman, Sharon Leighow, said the Alaska governor was abroad visiting National Guard troops, but wouldn’t immediately disclose where. Leighow called back 30 minutes later, after getting the Defense Department’s OK to say Palin was in Kosovo. Palin told the world where she was that day in a Twitter update.

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