Sanford resignation talk grows; Bauer next in line for office

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COLUMBIA -- While only two state lawmakers have called for S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford’s resignation, the issue is close at hand, with some predicting it to rise.

“It was a complete dereliction of duty,” said Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, adding that Rep. Bakari Sellers, R-Denmark, had also called for Sanford to step down. Rutherford said Sanford’s deceit and unexplained absence trumped his extramarital affair.

“I’m not the ‘moral majority,’ and I am not going to take my Bible around and beat people on the head with it,” he said.

“But if his wife didn’t care where he was, why couldn’t he tell his staff?”

Half of South Carolinians believe Sanford, 49, should quit, following his admission Wednesday that he had been having an affair with a woman in Argentina, according to an InsiderAdvantage poll commissioned by The Politico Web site.

During his press conference, Sanford did not respond when asked if he would resign. But if he does, the office would fall to Andre Bauer, the state’s lieutenant governor and second highest constitutional officer.

Frank Adams, communications director for Bauer’s office, refused to comment on whether the office was making any preparations to assume the governor’s responsibilities.

The change of power would also occur if the governor died, became disabled, or if state lawmakers voted by a two-thirds majority to impeach him. Bauer would also begin serving as governor if lawmakers started impeachment proceedings.

S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell criticized the Republican governor for his actions and pointed to the need for new legislation clarifying who is in charge when the governor is gone.

“The governor’s absence has brought to light some issues regarding the chain of command in the absence of the chief executive,” said the Charleston Republican in a statement. “It is imperative that the General Assembly deal with this during the next session.”

Asked today if Sanford should resign, Harrell said through a spokesman, “The governor needs to decide if he can be an effective chief executive for the state of S.C. and make his decision accordingly."

Of prominent Republicans, only Glenn McCall, one of South Carolina’s Republican National Committeeman, has publicly called for Sanford’s resignation, according to Greg Foster, spokesman for Harrell.

“Personally I don’t think that it is necessary for him to resign as governor, but I do believe there will be a great deal of pressure placed on him to resign,” said S.C. Rep. Kenneth Hodges, D-Green Pond.

“Whether or not he can endure that pressure depends on how strong his faith is,” he said.

Sarita Chourey can be reached at (803) 727-4257 or sarita.chourey@morris.com.


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