COLUMBIA, SC (CN) – A panel of South Carolina lawmakers voted against impeaching Gov. Mark Sanford for disappearing for five days in June to rendezvous with his Argentine mistress.
Instead, the six of the seven members of a panel assembled by the House judiciary committee chairman Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Columbia, voted to censure him for abandoning his post and abusing his power.
Republican Rep. Greg Delleney, the sponsor of the impeachment resolution, was the only panel member to vote for it.
The term-limited Sanford, once considered a possible contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, will likely get to serve out the final year of his term.
He still faces a vote by the full House committee, but lawmakers said it is unlikely the vote would overturn the subcommittee’s decision.
The South Carolina Legislature will vote on the recommendation to censure Sanford when it reconvenes in January.
In announcing its decision, the panel said while Sanford may have used a 2008 South American trade mission as a cover to initiate his affair, and that his use of state aircraft clearly warranted S.C. Ethics Commission review, the charges ultimately did not meet the high standard they felt necessary to remove Sanford from office.
After the vote, Delleney said he was disappointed in the outcome of the panel’s deliberations and that he would reach out to other Judiciary committee members to see if there’s any support to press on with the impeachment effort.
He said wasn’t hopeful that he’d find any.
“This is a political process,” he told reporters. “The political will is just not there.”
In a lengthy statement following the committee’s vote, Sanford thanked the panel for its “deliberate and measured approach throughout the process.”
“From the beginning I acknowledged my moral failing, and I apologized repeatedly,” the governor said. “But in the same breath I said, as real as that was, what has been suggested with regard to [my] supposedly not watching out for the taxpayer was just not correct, and that if there had been any oversight, it was minor and technical in nature.”
In all, over the course of its deliberations, the panel dismissed 32 of the 37 charges identified by the state Ethics Commission.
In his statement, Sanford said he is confident the five remaining charges will also be dismissed.
“We have consistently tried to be true to the taxpayer. This has not changed and it will not change,” he said.
Sanford vowed to “finish strong” and focus on the state’s economic challenges.
“I’ll also be focused on real opportunities for reform on the legislative front in making South Carolina more competitive in the global competition for jobs, investment and way of life,” he said.