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Before bombshell, South Carolinians were standing by their man

Compiled from InsiderAdvantage and Southern Political Report staff

June 24, 2009  On the eve of South Carolina Republican Gov. Mark Sanford’s Wednesday press conference explaining his mysterious recent disappearance, more than half of South Carolina voters still approve of his job performance, according to a new InsiderAdvantage poll conducted for Politico.

Meanwhile, some legislators were beginning to talk about impeachment, even before Sanford's bombshell announcement. Southern Political Report has learned from well-placed sources that some members of the South Carolina legislature are considering an effort to impeach Gov. Mark Sanford after revelations that he spent nearly a week in Argentina without disclosing where he was or providing means of communication.

 The South Carolina Constitution is broad in its description of the duties of the governor and under what circumstances impeachment may be considered. The most likely scenario would fall under the Constitution's provision that a governor may be impeached by the state House and then tried by the state Senate for removal from office if found guilty of  "serious crimes or serious misconduct in office."

The talk of impeachment comes after another strange twist in the Sanford saga, when he was met Wednesday morning by South Carolina reporters at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Sanford had left word with his staff last week he would be hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he told reporters Wednesday he decided to go somewhere more "exotic," and spent the past seven days in Buenos Aires.

The legislature may also act to prevent Sanford or any future governor from being out of contact.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Larry Martin (R-Pickens) said he didn't think Sanford's actions warranted impeachment, although he exercised "poor judgment" over the past week. But he said he intends to "revisit" the issues Sanford raised by dropping his security detail and remaining out of contact with Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and his own staff.

Martin said he and Senate President pro tem Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) have discussed taking action to require the governor to stay with his security staff, which is supplied by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and to notify the lieutenant governor when out of state.

Martin also said he was convinced that Bauer was legally the governor in Sanford's absence, and that Sanford's staff acted improperly in carrying on as if Sanford were still in charge. State law concerning when the lieutenant governor should take over "speaks to incapacity and absence," and that by being out of state and out of contact, Sanford fell under that requirement.


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