(CNN) – South Carolina's lieutenant governor on Wednesday accused Gov. Mark Sanford of "serious misconduct" in office and said the time has come for the embattled governor to resign.
Andre Bauer is the highest-ranking official so far to call on Sanford to step down. He said he tried to remain supportive of the governor after he admitted to an extramarital affair in June, but subsequent investigations into Sanford's foreign and domestic travel expenses have become too much of a distraction for the state.
Several GOP lawmakers have said that Sanford, also a Republican, violated South Carolina law by paying for pricey seats on international flights and using state aircraft for personal and political purposes.
"Regrettably, we have reached a point where we must all put the interests of the people of South Carolina first," Bauer said at a news conference inside the state house in Columbia. "It is my opinion that the best interests of the people of South Carolina can no longer be served by the current administration."
Sanford has scheduled a news conference for 3:30 p.m. ET to respond to Bauer's comments.
If Sanford does resign, Bauer would become governor for the remainder of Sanford's term, which expires in January 2011.
But the lieutenant governor, who was elected separately from Sanford and is not a political ally of the governor, offered Sanford a deal: If the governor resigns and Bauer takes office, he said he will put aside his own political ambitions and not move forward with the 2010 gubernatorial bid he has long been planning.
Bauer's rivals for the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nomination have been uncomfortable with the prospect of Bauer assuming the top office and running as an incumbent in next year's GOP primary. Bauer and his team have accused rival Republican candidates and their political allies in the legislature of dragging their feet on the Sanford issue, in order to prevent Bauer from being promoted to the governorship.
"If taking me out of the governor's race makes this happen and we move forward quickly, then yes, I am willing to forgo the opportunity I may have to be governor for the next four to eight years," he said, describing his proposal as "selfless.
However, Bauer said his deal - which he first revealed to CNN in June - would only be on the table for the next month. If Sanford does not resign in the coming weeks, Bauer said, he will move forward with his plans to run for governor, even if Sanford is impeached and removed from office.
Investigations into the governor's travel expenses revealed that he spent thousands of dollars on business and first-class airline tickets for overseas flights, and used state aircraft for personal and political travel. Those probes were prompted by Sanford's disclosure in June that he had an affair with an Argentine woman.
Bauer called on the state legislature to take action on Sanford before the end of the year if he does not step down. Lawmakers will not be able to take formal action until the legislature re-convenes in January, unless a special session is called before then.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee have told CNN there are enough votes on the committee to send an impeachment motion to the floor of the House.
House Republicans are meeting this weekend in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for their annual retreat, and the impeachment matter is likely to dominate the agenda, according to those planning to attend.
The power of impeachment in South Carolina, according to the state constitution, is reserved for "cases of serious crimes or serious misconduct in office."
Impeachment requires a two-thirds vote in the House followed by a two-thirds vote in the Senate.
On Tuesday, Rep. Nathan Ballentine - a Sanford ally in the legislature - met with the governor privately and warned him that unless he steps down, House Republicans are likely to impeach him. Sanford rejected his plea.
"Barring some swing of momentum in his favor, I told him the writing is on the wall," Ballentine told CNN.
Sanford has said he and his family were working on healing after his admission about the affair. His wife, Jenny, and the couple's four sons recently moved out of the governor's mansion and back to their private home in Charleston for the beginning of the school year.
If someone wants to cheat on their spouse, that's their business, but cheating on your constituents is another matter, and misrepresenting yourself is just that, to say nothing of the alleged misappropriation of state funds. If you have any capability left in you to do the right thing, Sanford, pack your bags.
Wow, I did not know that there are so many self acclaimed saint out there that give themselves the right to judge others.
And Congrats, AP, you really want to make sure he resignes, I see. I'm sure there are many many more elected officials out there that behave badly, why don't you do us all a favor and chase after them? Are you yourself a saint, AP?
YOu are all a bunch of hypocrite.
I'm amazed at the double standard! We had a president in office that was caught in an extramarital affair with someone half his age, in the white house! He lied under oath in front of the American people and he got a free ride. Heck "Slick Willy" is still in politics working at Obama's behest and living off of the American taxpayer. Here, a governor has an affair, admits his mistake and is trying to move on with the business of being governor but the moral majority is trying to drive a stake through his heart as if he were an evil vampire. If he goes, Bill should go right along with him....out the door and no more.
So basically what this morons comment say's is,......He "regrets" having to put the people's best interests first? Is that how I'm to interpret that? Don't tell me, let me guess,he's Republican!!!!!
When Sanford Lied to his Wife............... We want to Remove him.
When Bush Lied to the Whole Country................ We didn't Remove him.
Bush Lied about WMDs of Iraq.
Why ask him to step down, why not throw him out? Enough already on this shameless governor.
Gov. Mark "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" Sanford, God's gift to Liberalism, just keeps on giving.
Let us pause to review that stellar lineup of Conservative superstars. Rep. Mark Foley of Florida pursued young pages through the virtual corridors of Congress. Sen. Ensign of Nevada, whose elderly parents paid off his employee/lover, assures us that what he did was no worse than what Clinton did (the last line of defense for a Conservative lawmaker). Sen. Larry "Wide Stance" Craig, that toe-tapping Senator from Idaho, made a stall in the Chicago airport a tourist attraction. Louisiana Conservative Senator David Vitter, a favorite client of the notorious DC Madam, assures us that Jesus has forgiven him.
Now are there sexually frisky Democrats who have done the same things? There certainly are. But somehow it is so much more fun when it is Republican Conservatives. My favorite part is when Jesus forgives them. Jesus is very tolerant of Conservative hanky-panky. Too bad Conservatives are not so forgiving.
Yup, he is asked to step down for having an affair, and meanwhile everyone is praising the Senator who just passed away while forgetting he is a murderer.
come on Dems, where is your higher ground
oh, I know, do it to them before they do it to you
thou shalt commit adultry (Bill Clinton)
thou shalt covet thy neighbor's (you fill in the blank.. oh you already did)
thou shalt not lie ( especially under oath Bill Clinton)
gee, I'm sure there is more of the bible you have violated.
He isn't going to step down... his cool governors job makes it easier to pick up chicks...
He who cast the first stone!!!
Sanford still believes God put him is power...apparently to then lie to his constituents and cheat on his wife.
No wonder him and God are so close buddies...he thinks God is his frat house roommate.
Conservative Southern Christianity is the utter joke of the world.
Ok, come on people;
This is about him, as an idividual, being a scum-bucket.
Anyone out there ragging on republicans over this needs to check their agendas. Stick to the story, and stop trying to make yourself feel big and important.. You just sound stupid.
I AM REGISTERED WITH THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. ie, I'm not just saying this out of republican biases
Wow every time I read these comments I feel more desperate about the state of our country, so very many dumb people.
The reason everyone is calling for him to step down is because he used state funds and resources for personal benefit, as well as going MIA for 5 days. When you're a governor you cannot lie about where you are and tell no one where you're actually going.
So to all the incompetent people on here referencing Clinton, trying to compare the situations, educate yourselves past the third grade and learn the real reason he is being called on to step down.
For those of you that are squawking "Leave him alone...Clinton did not get booted out of office and HE had an affair" try to understand...
this is NOT about his affair. This is about the misuse of state funds for travel and about disappearing for five days with no contact or way to be contacted. Clinton was impeached because of his affair but found not guilty....but this has nothing to do with Sanford's affair...apples to oranges...!
Reasons Sanford should resign:
1. He was AWOL from his job as governor; how many of us would have a job waiting if we decided to go away for a few days, without notice?
2. He abused his power by using state funds to travel to visit his lover.
You can't compare him to Clinton, two totally different situations, though both were adultery. Clinton lied about the affair while under oath. The GOP were quick to impeach him!
Of course, Bush LIED about the reason to attack Iraq & the WMD's! No one impeached him!
Sanford should resign, better yet the people of S. Carolina should fire the scum bag!
Slow down Speedy Gonzalez. I don't mean as in a cartoon or Buenos Aires....but your traffic speeding tickets.
I think the South Carolina Lt. Governor is right on this issue. Governor, step down before you make a bigger fool of yourself and a embarrassment to the great state of South Carolina and your family, and friends. Mike in Montana