COLUMBIA, S.C. (CN) – Six members of South Carolina’s Senate Republican caucus are calling on Gov. Mark Sanford to resign following his admission yesterday of several more encounters with his mistress than he’d previously owned up to, and his admission that he’d “crossed the line” with other women on occasion.
“We must have strong leadership from a Governor who is focused and trusted,” lawmakers wrote in a letter calling for the governor’s resignation. “Governor Sanford is neither.”
Although Sanford stressed that those other relationships weren’t sexual in nature, the new disclosures once again landed the governor’s martial infidelity’s on the front pages of newspapers across the state, and stoked fears among his fellow Republicans that word of new indiscretions will continue to seep out, damaging the party.
In the meantime, Lieutenant Gov. Andre Bauer held a series of press interviews in which he acknowledged talking to the state’s Republican leadership about taking over for Sanford now – but only if he agrees not to formally run for governor in 2010.
The call for Sanford’s resignation came in the form of a letter, drafted by Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, and circulated among his Republican colleagues Tuesday night.
Although it was signed by only six of the 27 members of the state’s Republican caucus, in itself the letter represented the most definitive call to date for Sanford’s resignation in the wake of his admission to a long time affair with an Argentinean woman. Members of the state’s Republican-controlled General Assembly have thus far remained mum on the issue.
At least four other Republican senators have said they either want Sanford gone, or are coming closer to that conclusion.
The letter reads in part, “Crisis requires people in leadership positions to act decisively, with as much dispassionate wisdom and judgment as possible. Governor Sanford has imposed a crisis upon our state. As members of the Senate, we have a duty to the people of South Carolina to do what is in their best interests.
“We therefore have concluded that Governor Mark Sanford must resign his office. He has lost the trust of the people and the legislature to lead our state through historically difficult times,” it continues.
Peeler goes on to cite a litany of challenges confronting the state, including its high unemployment rates and a cash-starved public education system.
In the face of such challenges, Peeler writes, “We must have strong leadership from a Governor who is focused and trusted. Governor Sanford is neither.”
Peeler closed by saying the decision to call for Sanford’s resignation was not inspired by his “personal failings,” but by events that have transpired since he admitted to his infidelity and that his recent disappearance from the state was, in fact, a visit to his mistress.
“The recent revelation that he used taxpayer money to visit Argentina demonstrates that our state crisis will not recede while he is in office,” Peeler said, referring to Sanford’s admission that he used a state Commerce Department mission to South America as a cover to meet with mistress Maria Belen Chapur, whom he has described as his “Soul mate.”
“The Governor, through his spokesmen, deceived the media and public about where he was and what he was doing for several days,” Peeler wrote. “He abandoned his office and the people who elected him with a premeditated cover-up, launching a constitutional crisis that was dangerous and reckless.
“These disclosures indicate a pattern of abuse of office,” the letter said. “Most disturbing is our belief that the Governor only admitted to these transgressions after he was caught … his deception and negligence make it impossible for us to trust him, and for him to govern in the future.”
In addition to Peeler, the letter is signed by Hugh Leatherman, chairman of the senate’s finance committee, Larry Martin, chairman of the senate rules committee, and Senators Paul Campbell Jr., John Knotts Jr. and William O’Dell.
The letter was circulated on the heels of Attorney General Henry McMaster’s calling for a state law enforcement investigation of the governor’s travel.
Despite the mounting pressure, Sanford continued to insist through his spokesman that he has no intention to step down and plans to serve out the last 18 months of his term.
While a deal among the state’s Republicans to support Bauer as a replacement for Sanford, but not his election to the post in his own right might seem strange to those outside the state. Within South Carolina, Bauer is known to come with his own baggage.
For instance, at his insistence and against the wishes of Sanford, who vetoed the measure, Bauer has been provided with a $90,000-a-year security detail. Bauer called for the detail after he said “direct threats” were made against him, but the existence of those threats was never verified.
Bauer has also made headlines for twice being pulled over for speeding – once for going over 100 mph – and for crashing a private plane that he was piloting. The NTSB subsequently concluded that he did not have enough speed to take off, but attempted to do so anyway, wound up stalling the aircraft and crashing.
Besides Bauer, also injured in the crash was John Leonhardt, a Columbia, South Carolina businessman.
During weekend appearances on many national news programs, and during interviews Monday with reporters in Columbia, Bauer addressed why he’d agree to serve as governor, but step aside when voters were actually going to go to the polls.
In short, he said, “Because somebody has to be the adult here.”
“People are too concerned about the gubernatorial race, and nobody is worried about the people of South Carolina. We have got to move forward as a state,” he said, adding that he’s been giving the proposal “careful consideration.”