Two of S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford’s closest legislative allies told him on Tuesday that the time had come for him to step down for the good of the state.
State Representatives Nathan Ballentine (R-Lexington) and Gary Simrill (R-Rock Hill) met with Sanford in his office in Columbia, with both lawmakers urging the governor to either resign or face impeachment by the S.C. House of Representatives and removal from office by the S.C. Senate when the legislature reconvenes in January.
Nearly all elected Democrats and dozens of Republican leaders in South Carolina have already called on Sanford to step down – and FITS recently broke the news that House members had begun the process of preparing impeachment documents.
Seemingly by the day, Sanford’s prognosis for survival worsens – although sources tell FITS that S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell remains reticent to move against the governor.
Earlier this summer, Sanford admitted having an affair with his Argentine lover, Maria Belen Chapur, and lying to his family, staff and the state about his whereabouts. Days later, just when it appeared the scandal had died down, Sanford granted an ill-fated interview with the Associated Press in which he called Chapur his “soul mate,” admitted “crossing lines” with other women and said he was trying to “fall back in love” with his wife – who has since moved out of the Governor’s Mansion with the couple’s four boys.
As his personal life has unraveled, scrutiny into Sanford’s travel as governor has uncovered numerous irregularities, including unauthorized airline upgrades, improper use of the state plane and a failure to report air travel provided by friends and political allies. Former staffers have also begun to spill details of the governor’s alleged misuse of his staff and security detail.
Sanford reportedly told Ballentine and Simrill that he has “done nothing illegal,” a claim that would certainly appear to contradict the evidence at hand.
Meanwhile, S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster – who is running to replace Sanford – has twice passed the buck by asking two agencies that report to the governor to investigate him. One of those agencies is stacked with Sanford’s campaign contributors.
That “conflicted” approach isn’t flying with lawmakers.
“He will either resign or we will remove him,” one of the state’s top Republican legislators told FITS. “It’s as simple as that.”
Another key GOP legislative leader echoed that assessment, telling FITS that Sanford would either voluntarily resign prior to the beginning of the next legislative session or “be gone no later than February (of 2010).”
There is literally no good news for the governor at this point. His already limited legislative support has completely evaporated, the public has turned on him, the media is stalking him like a wounded Wildebeest and it seems each week another fresh round of accusations hits the fan.
Plus, he’s without his top strategist – the wife he cheated on.
Sanford, however, remains Quixotically committed to staying in power – and was unswayed by the pleas of two of his strongest legislative supporters.
“I think he’s going all in,” Ballentine said of the governor’s high-stakes play to hang onto his office.
That would certainly confirm reports we’ve heard from others who have attempted to broach the subject with Sanford.
“I can appreciate his fighting spirit,” Ballentine told FITS. “But I also want to believe that he understands what’s happening – and that he truly wants to do what’s in the best interests of our state and our citizens. I just don’t see how him staying in office for the next sixteen months will accomplish anything for our state or our people.”