|Governor Mark Sanford’s affair set off a travel inquiry. (Virginia Postic/ Associated Press)|
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford rebuffed his lieutenant governor’s call to resign yesterday, saying he will not be “railroaded’’ out of office and plans to finish the last 16 months of his term.
Sanford returned from a nearly weeklong disappearance in June to admit an affair with an Argentine woman, a revelation that led to questions about the legality of his travel on state, private, and commercial planes.
At a news conference yesterday hours after Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer called for him to step down, Sanford said the people of South Carolina want to move past the scandals.
“I’m not going to be railroaded out of this office by political opponents or folks who were never fans of mine in the first place,’’ Sanford said. “A lot of what is going on now is pure politics, plain and simple.’’
Bauer and Sanford are Republicans who have served together for two terms but were elected separately and have never been friends.
Some Republicans have been reluctant to seek Sanford’s resignation or impeachment because they do not want to give Bauer what would amount to a long-term tryout for the job. If Sanford steps down before his term ends in January 2011, Bauer said he will promise not to run in 2010 so that is not an issue.
“The serious misconduct that has been revealed along with lingering questions and continuing distractions make it virtually impossible for our state to solve the critical problems we’re facing without a change in leadership,’’ Bauer said yesterday.
House Republicans are expected to discuss this week what it would take to impeach Sanford. The House is expected to launch impeachment proceedings when lawmakers return for their regular session in January, though they could also hold a special session before then.
Sanford said heeding Bauer’s call for him to resign would be like “heaven on earth’’ because it would get him out of the public eye, but it would not be right.
Bauer said he will go ahead with his candidacy if Sanford does not resign or lawmakers do not force him out within 30 days. Term limits prevent Sanford from running for a third term.
Sacrificing the run for governor next year could boost Bauer’s status in the state GOP but still allow the 40-year-old plenty of time for another election.
Republican Senator David Thomas said Bauer’s decision would likely spur the House to action.