(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.
Although, I believe Sanford should have been made to step down after it was first reported he had left the state without notifying the citizens of South Carolina as to his whereabouts just to make a booty call to his mistress in Argentina, does anyone actually think Bauer would keep his promise not to run for governor of South Carolina?
He's a republican, and anytime his mouth is moving, he's lying.
Those stupid Republicans. When will they learn to seperate politics from private matters??
Regrettably???? It's time to put the people first??? Clinton & Edwards had nothing to do with this.
I love the Three's Company idea posted earlier! That would be hilarious. :-)
Out with Mark Sanford already.
no one likes to give up their power.
they must be forced to give up their power
As a resident of S.C., I can say this is the ONLY way Bauer would become Governor, campaign 2010 or not! There's a reason Sanford hasn't been run out of town and that's because Andre Bauer is the Lt. Gov.
Remind me why any of us should ever vote for a Republican again?
Don't worry there is nothing you can say that will ever make me do it again. I actually care about America and Americans.
What a bunch of knuckleheads.
Regrettably? Nice choice of words there… I personally don’t care if the guy cheats on his wife, that doesn’t effect policy making decisions. Just don’t use tax payers money to foot the bill. And enough with the crying from rep “if this where a democrat, blah blah.” Who cares, republicans don’t hold a monopoly on bad decisions. And I assume you get the same feeling that most liberals get when we watch faux news. Yes they are both bias, it’s there constituents want.
Who cares? This wasn't news a month ago, it's less than relevant now.
A lot of the noise around this is 99% political, coming from his own party, in terms of political liability. Though I don't agree with the governor's politics or poor choices, falling in love is not a crime.
No no no no We have to keep Sandfrod in office at all costs! He is the best thing to happen to the gop in a long time (ok since Ensign OR Vitter or Craig, or Foley)
Under no circumstances can we allow him to be removed
Mark Sanford, hippocrit extraordinaire! I seem to recall his sincere and heartfelt plea to President Bill Clinton to resign because, having lied to the people, he could never be trusted again. Yet here he is, hanging on for all he's worth, which isn't much. This is what I can't stand about you republicans–it's ALWAYS ok if someone on your side gets caught, but you can't wait to crucify the dems for everything and anything. You fool fewer and fewer people every year.
maybe he can get a job in Argentina!
If they impeach this guy, they're going to have to impeach the governors of at least half of the United States. Of course if Sanford was a democrat, the media would have ignored his behavior and he would would have been home free.
"Regrettably, we have reached a point where we must all put the interests of the people of South Carolina first."
Anybody else see something wrong about that statement?
The hyprocracy...politicians of both parties have frequent affairs and abuse the taxpayers. Bill Clinton is still on the schene and lied to congress.We are in the midst of paying homage to Kennedy and look at his track record. One resulted in a death. What Sanford did is also considered a southern birthright. When will all politicians develop morals? Until then, lay off.
outrageous behavior got the congressman with the cash in the freezer the heave-ho, this is so much worse somehow. OUT!!
This is something that should be worked out , or not by husband and wife. Just take a deep breth and ask yourself have you done something wrong and when you answer dont lie to yourself.
Do you not read full articles? Beside violating the trust of his family (the only valid comparison to Clinton... the rest of your comparison/comment makes no sense since the issues are completely different.. read further), there has definitely been some suspect activity using SC state money (that's your money... and you are not upset??) and property.
He has every right to handle his personal issues how ever he sees fit (difficult while in the public eye), but inappropriate use of tax payer money and property is another story. That is inexcusable and goes against the very foundation of public office. Regardless of his guilt or innocence, he can no longer be taken seriously. That reduces the administration's ability to be effective.
Just further living proof that the GOP is a joke and can no longer maintain its previously established beliefs/values. Its own members can't practice what they preach, yet the people keep backing/defending these hypocrites. Family values? Fiscal responsibility? Please...
Time to step down...
Sanford is a creep, and "Walking the Appalachian Trail" is going to go down in the lexicon of creepy euphemisms.
come on GOPer, where is your higher ground
oh, I know, do it to them before they do it to you
thou shalt commit adultry
thou shalt covet thy neighbor's (you fill in the blank.. oh you already did)
thou shalt not lie
gee, I'm sure there is more of the bible you have violated
NO – DON'T QUIT !!!!
These folks are ALL the same liberal dogs who want Limbaugh , Boehner, Cantor , Lamas and the like to get out of the way so they can rule the country!!!
Say No to Pelosi No to Reid and finally no to "you know who"
Are we really surprised that the people of South Carolina picked this unethical, ignorant fool to be their governor? This is consistent with how they usually vote. The thickest southern drawl, and the narrowest mind ALWAYS wins out there. I'm sure they will "stay the course". Pathetic. Is it too late to let them be their own country?