SC residents rally, call for governor to leave

COLUMBIA, S.C. --- Dozens of South Carolinians gathered at the Statehouse on Thursday to rally for Gov. Mark Sanford's resignation or impeachment.

The rally, promoted through the social networking site Facebook, came two weeks after the Republican governor returned from a mysterious, six-day disappearance to reveal he was in Argentina to rendezvous with his mistress. Signs carried by the roughly 60 protesters read "Sanford abandoned South Carolina" and "Don't preach. Impeach."

"He walked out on us," said Delaine Simmons, 55, who drove 150 miles from Walhalla.

Protesters said that while the affair itself is a private matter, Sanford needs to resign for going AWOL, without his staff or law enforcement knowing his whereabouts, and without handing authority to the lieutenant governor.

Mike Evatt, 45, who drove from Seneca, said Sanford took a "serious gamble" that an emergency wouldn't arise. He called the state GOP executive committee's vote late Monday to censure the governor laughable.

A handful of Sanford supporters argued Sanford took a much-deserved vacation after working overtime to fight the federal stimulus.

John Perna, 62, of Lexington, said the issue boils down to Sanford yielding to the "temptation of a woman," which has nothing to do with his duties.

As for that "little vacation he took," Perna said, "he did an awful lot of overtime before that with the stimulus."

Sanford supporters praised his refusal of $700 million in federal stimulus set aside for public education and law enforcement in South Carolina, but the protesters said that's another example of why he should go. The governor eventually requested the money last month under orders from the state Supreme Court.

High school graduate Jessica Shealy, 18, of Lexington, said some of her teachers and two of her friends' fathers lost their jobs because of budget cuts and the stimulus battle.

South Carolina New Democrats president Phil Noble acknowledged the Sanford protesters were largely a partisan crowd of Democrats. But he said he hoped the crowd would be just as upset by a Democrat who dishonored his office.

"This is a human tragedy for Sanford and his family. That's not what's important. Gov. Sanford has repeatedly, willfully broken the bonds of trust," he said.

Lori Wind of Charleston said the State Law Enforcement Division's finding that Sanford did not misuse public funds was not sufficient because the review relied on Sanford's statements.

"Why is an attempt being made to sweep this under the rug?" asked the 39-year-old accountant.

Democratic activist Marilyn Hemingway of Seneca organized the rally through her Facebook sites, including "Impeach Mark Sanford," which has attracted about 6,000 members since she created it during the stimulus fight.

Sanford has said he will not resign, but instead is working to restore trust with voters and legislators.

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