A week-long poll of more than seventy S.C. House Republicans has resulted in near-unanimous support for a letter calling on disgraced S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford to resign, multiple lawmakers have told FITS.
The poll of GOP Caucus members – which was conducted last week at the request of S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell – reportedly found only one Republican lawmaker who opposed the idea, although none of the legislators we spoke with would reveal the identity of their lone pro-Sanford colleague. A handful of Republican lawmakers were reportedly “undecided” about sending the letter, including Speaker Harrell and GOP Majority Leader, Kenny Bingham.
A week ago, Harrell and Bingham refused to allow House Republicans to circulate a letter calling on the governor to resign – part of a contentious GOP Caucus meeting in Myrtle Beach at which no lawmaker spoke in Sanford’s defense.
According to our sources the Caucus meeting – which is usually closed to the media – was made public by Harrell in an effort to mute not only legislative criticism of the governor, but also criticism of the Speaker’s refusal to move forward with impeachment proceedings against him. Incidentally, Harrell’s decision to allow cameras into the meeting reportedly prompted an angry, profanity-laced exchange between the Speaker and one of his most reliable foot soldiers, former Majority Leader Jimmy Merrill.
Unknown at this point is whether the letter – which could be sent to the governor’s office as early as next week – would come from House Republicans exclusively, or from a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
Obviously, if more than two-thirds of House members were to send a letter to Sanford calling on him to resign, the governor would face an uphill impeachment vote in the increasingly likely event that one is held. Also, most political observers agree that the State Senate would have no trouble reaching a two-thirds majority to remove Sanford from office if the House voted to impeach him.
Earlier this summer, Sanford admitted to having an extramarital affair with his Latin lover, Maria Belen Chapur, an acknowledgment which has prompted intense scrutiny of all aspects of his administration. Examination of the governor’s travel, in particular, has yielded a number of abuses – beginning with a 2008 trip to Argentina that appears to have been arranged entirely for the purpose of permitting Sanford to see his lover.
Sanford refunded taxpayers for his expenses related to that trip (a year after the fact), but he has not reimbursed us for the taxpayer time and resources that went into setting it up.
Additionally, Sanford has received first-class plane ticket upgrades in violation of state policy, misused the state plane for personal and political reasons and failed to report numerous airplane flights that were provided to him by friends and political allies.