- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A fellow Republican lawmaker’s expected impeachment move against South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford will go nowhere unless new information against Mr. Sanford surfaces during a special session of the state legislature that begins Tuesday, state Republican officials told The Washington Times.

“I think the governor should probably resign, but I think members want to hear from the [state] Ethics Commission before acting on impeachment,” said Henry Eldridge, Chester County GOP chairman.

State Rep. Greg Delleney, a Democrat turned Republican and a House Judiciary Committee member, is expected to introduce articles of impeachment against the governor during the special session that was convened to deal with an unrelated issue, involving the extension of unemployment benefits.

The Republican House speaker has warned lawmakers to pack enough clothes to stay in Columbia, the capital, several days — longer than would be necessary to deal with the benefits issue, several Republicans said.

Mr. Sanford became an embarrassment for his party when it was revealed in June that he had left the country to visit his mistress in Argentina and lied to his staff, who in turn misled South Carolina law enforcement and the public about the governor’s whereabouts.

Unrelated questions then arose over his use of taxpayer money to fly to Argentina and to upgrade seats on commercial flights within the state for political events. Contrary to normal practice, the Ethics Commission investigation is not going on in public. The governor, who first called for “transparency,” reversed himself and asked that the sessions be closed.

The state GOP has called on him to resign, as have Democrats and some Republicans in the legislature, but Mr. Sanford has insisted he will complete his term, which ends in January 2011.

It would take two-thirds House approval to take up the impeachment articles and then two-thirds to actually impeach the governor.

A top state GOP official said that could happen, if “really bad stuff” about Mr. Sanford is uncovered during the House special session. If not, impeachment will probably be a dead issue by January, said the official, who had promised colleagues not to comment any further on the record regarding Mr. Sanford and impeachment.

Republicans had feared that the Sanford scandal would reflect badly on the party’s image, impairing its chances in the next election.

A recent poll of 1,000 state voters, commissioned by the state GOP, however, showed that voters regard Mr. Sanford separately from the party and that the GOP brand was not in jeopardy.

“I am pleased to report those concerns are completely unfounded,” said South Carolina GOP Chairman Karen Floyd.

She noted that 54 percent of voters said they would vote for the GOP candidate for governor in 2010, and only 34 percent said they would vote for a Democrat. The poll had a margin of error of 3.2 percent.

Republicans also had the advantage by a similarly large percentage difference when the question was which party “best reflects their views and values.”

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