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S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford: momentum builds toward impeachment

A panel of the South Carolina House held a hearing into the potential impeachment of Gov. Mark Sanford Tuesday. The state constitution gives lawmakers wide latitude to impeach Sanford, who left the state secretly in June to visit a lover in Argentina.

By Staff writer / November 24, 2009

In this Aug 13, 2009 file photo, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford responds to questions after a meeting in Columbia, S.C.

Mary Ann Chastain/AP/File


The heat is turning up on Mark Sanford, the embattled two-term governor of South Carolina.

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On Tuesday, a state legislative panel held its first hearing into possibly impeaching the Republican over his five-day disappearance last June to visit his lover in Argentina. The panel also expanded its review to include 37 ethics charges that were released Monday against Governor Sanford, which centered on travel and campaign spending.

“Momentum is building to get on with the process, no doubt about it,” says David Woodard, a political scientist at Clemson University in Greenville and a Republican strategist.

At issue is whether Sanford’s behavior consisted of “serious crimes or serious misconduct in office,” as the standard for impeachment is described by the state constitution. With such a vague definition, state legislators will have wide latitude in their interpretation.

If impeached and removed from office, Sanford would be the first South Carolina governor to face that fate, and only the ninth in US history, following Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s removal earlier this year.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the seven-member panel of the House Judiciary Committee considered an impeachment resolution co-sponsored by four Republicans and one Democrat. The resolution stated that Sanford was derelict in his duty as governor by leaving the state without a clear chain of command in his absence.

“He left his post, he left his state, he left his country without notifying anyone in authority,” said state Rep. Greg Delleney (R), the leader of the impeachment effort, at the hearing. “He was in effect AWOL as chief magistrate or governor for the state of South Carolina, in whom the supreme executive authority of this state is vested.”

State Rep. Walt McLeod (D) questioned whether it was appropriate to apply military terminology, such as “dereliction of duty” and “AWOL,” to Sanford’s conduct when he disappeared.

In the impeachment resolution, Sanford was criticized for conduct that “has brought extreme dishonor and shame to the Office of the Governor of South Carolina and to the reputation of the State of South Carolina.”