Calls for Sanford to Resign Grow Louder in South Carolina

Some GOP senators say S.C. governor needs to step down for sake of the state.

July 1, 2009— -- South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's admission of an extramarital affair last week was shocking to many Republicans, and now detailed revelations Tuesday about more meetings with his mistress have pushed many over the edge.

Calls for Sanford's resignation from both the GOP and Democrats -- which were relatively quiet initially -- have grown louder since the embattled governor confessed in an interview with the Associated Press that Maria Belen Chapur is his "soul mate" and that he has "crossed lines" with other women as well.

At least 12 of 27 state GOP senators have called on Sanford to step down, according to Sen. Jake Knotts, a longtime critic of the governor who was one of the first to raise opposition and call for a criminal investigation into whether Sanford used state money to finance his trips to see his 41-year-old mistress.

"It's not all about Mark Sanford now," Knotts told "It's about his family and the state of South Carolina. He needs to resign and set South Carolina free and let us move forward."

Some state Republican leaders are angry that the Sanford saga is distracting from the state's problems. At 12.1 percent, South Carolina's unemployment rate is the third-highest in the country. Knotts says companies are hesitant to bring business to the state anyway, and this scandal will further mar the state's reputation.

In a letter calling for Sanford's resignation, the heads of the Republican-controlled state senate wrote that the governor's affair and his taxpayer-funded trips have caused a "constitutional crisis."

"We must have strong leadership from a governor who is focused and trusted," they wrote. "Governor Sanford is neither."

Others say he's simply not able to lead the state.

"People don't give those kind of interviews knowing that the whole world is going to be listening in," Republican state Sen. Larry Martin, chairman of the Senate Rules committee, told, referring to Sanford's revealing interview with The AP. "I just don't think he's being very rational. I think it's indicative of some serious issues on his part, emotional mental healthwise."

One of South Carolina's two Senate representatives in Washington and a good friend of the governor, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., told Fox News today that he is one of the people "talking to him behind the scenes in hopes that he'll make the right decision about what needs to be done."

Expressing concern about Sanford's ability to continue as governor, DeMint said, "we will see some resolution in the next week."

DeMint's spokesperson said the senator is not commenting on whether Sanford should resign.

Chapur Revelations Damage Governor

Sanford told The AP that he saw Chapur, a former producer, five times over the last year, including two romantic weekends in New York. He said the two met in 2001 at an open-air dance spot in Uruguay, but that the relationship did not turn physical until last year when he was on a trade trip to South America. The governor has agreed to return the money for that trip, even though he insists he didn't do anything wrong, and that he paid for all other trips to see his mistress in cash. However, on Wednesday, the governor took back a promise he made last week - to release financial records that he said would prove he did not spend state money to see his mistress.

Following the release of the interview, South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster -- considered a frontrunner in the 2010 gubernatorial race -- called for an investigation and said he requested the State Law Enforcement Division to review all of Sanford's travel records to see if any laws were broken or if any state funds misused.

However, Reggie Lloyd, director of the agency, said Tuesday it is not a criminal investigation and so far there has been no evidence suggesting that there was wrongdoing.

Before Tuesday, both McMaster and Lloyd dismissed the prospect of an investigation.

Some Republicans Stand Behind Mark Sanford

Some Republicans have stayed on the sidelines in the calls for Sanford's resignation.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, a Republican who would be the chair if the South Carolina legislature forced Sanford to resign, says calls to remove Sanford should wait until results of the state investigation.

"Talking about impeachment is premature at this point," said Harrell's communications director, Greg Foster. "He's encouraged by the investigation and would like to see the results of that and see if public funds were misused, but he's standing by his statement [that Sanford is the one who needs to decide if he can be an effective chief executive]."

Several Could Benefit If Sanford Resigns

The outcome of the investigation has significant political implications. McMaster is one of the top contenders for next year's gubernatorial race along with Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who would take over if Sanford resigns or is impeached.

"If he [McMaster] has this investigation, he gets more publicity and name recognition if he does a good job," Robert Oldendick, an executive director and professor at the University of South Carolina, told "The downside is that if Sanford does leave office, and Lt. Gov. Bauer takes over, it gives him 15 to 16 months of incumbency leading into the race and that will be to his advantage in terms of media and name recognition."

Some Democrats say the investigation is merely for show.

"It ain't big at all," J. Todd Rutherford, a Democrat in the South Carolina House of Representatives, told "He [McMaster] just did it because Sanford embarrassed himself and others. Nothing new has come out about state money."

Rutherford, who called for Sanford to resign shortly after the governor announced his affair, said the investigation is unlikely to prove anything because the governor used cash on his trips. He insists Sanford should resign because he broke the law when he failed to inform his lieutenant governor that he was leaving the country.

"He should resign because of what he did when he disappeared," Rutherford said. "There are no state employee guidelines that allow for the employee to be gone for five days [without notification]."

Republicans say an impeachment in the legislature is also unlikely.

"My view of the impeachment possibility or prospect is, we're going to have to put our hands on some very hard evidence that he has abused his position in the extramarital affair," Martin said. "Just looking at the makeup of the legislature and how difficult of an objective that would be and the tremendously excruciating ordeal it would put the state through ... Unless we get some further hard information about public money or abuse of position ... I just simply don't know about that. I think his best course is to resign."

Most in the GOP-controlled legislature have not spoken out about Sanford's affair or his resignation, but Republican leaders who have been vocal about Sanford's affair are concerned about its impact on the party.

"It's killing us," Knotts said.

At the same time, it remains unclear whether that will boost Democrats' chances in the 2010 governor's race.

The South Carolina Democratic Party issued a statement Wednesday, calling on the governor to step down. When asked why the organization waited a week to call for Sanford's resignation, spokeswoman Keiana Page said they were waiting for "more details about what's going on" before issuing a statement.