By FITSNews || With a flurry of private emails burning up the South Carolina political blogosphere and several media outlets on the very of publishing copies, sources close to S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom are acknowledging that the 61-year-old – who has been separated from his wife for nearly two years – has been romantically involved over the past year with Midlands High School teacher (and GOP Superintendent of Education candidate) Kelly Payne.
Privately, Eckstrom’s office has acknowledged that he is the author of over two dozen emails provided to FITS (and multiple other media outlets) – emails which clearly document a personal relationship with Payne.
On the record, Eckstrom is not commenting about the emails, the affair or any aspect of his private life – an approach which obviously stands in stark contrast to S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford, whose email scandal resulted in numerous “therapy by journalist” sessions, including a disastrous AP interview in which he claimed his lover was his “soul mate.”
Below is a copy of the statement FITS received Wednesday from the Comptroller General’s office:
We’re not commenting on personal stuff like this, for one because it doesn’t have a thing to do with the duties of the office, and also because introducing private issues will only distract from the necessary day-to-day financial issues we deal with.
Ask about state finances or government transparency, and we’ll be happy to talk at length, but I think some folks, and some people in the media, sometime want to focus too much on the private lives of public figures — things involving their lives outside their offices — and not enough on the jobs they’ve been given to do.
Eckstrom has been separated from his wife, Peggy, for nearly two years. He was elected State Treasurer in 1994, lost that office in 1998 and was elected Comptroller General in 2002. He was reelected Comptroller in 2006 against a credible Democratic opponent.
No Republican or Democratic challenger has filed yet against Eckstrom for the 2010 election.
Payne, who formally kicked off her campaign last month, is running against two Republican primary opponents. She declined to comment immediately to FITS but a representative of her campaign said that she would “issue a statement shortly.”
Payne is not married, but has children from a previous marriage.
The Eckstrom emails – the contents of which are available here – come on the heels of S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford’s steamy emails with his Argentine mistress, Maria Belen Chapur.
While not as graphic as the governor’s emails – which referenced his lover’s tan lines and ample breasts – Eckstrom is not shy in expressing his feelings.
In one email, he tells Payne that he is glad she is a Christian because it means they will be able to “frolick together in heaven.”
In another, he refers to himself as a “fine specimen.”
One email includes a reference to a magazine article about sex positions and an offer to be Payne’s “guinea pig.”