Sanford controversy comes with several twists and turns
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South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford made the latest stop in what's been dubbed an "Apology Tour." He visited yet another Rotary Club, and then he went on live radio to take calls directly from the public. At the same time, the Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives became the latest top-ranking Republican to call for Sanford's resignation. In this segment, WFAE Morning Edition host Scott Graf speaks with WFAE's Julie Rose about this developing story. Graf: So Governor Sanford was WVOC radio. That's an AM station in Columbia. How was the Governor received? Rose: It was a pretty friendly crowd, actually. There were some critics who called in to vent during the hour before the Governor took the air. But when Sanford came on, the callers were largely supportive of him. And he took the chance in front of a microphone to defend his record at length. Here's a clip from a caller asking the Governor about the trip to Argentina back in June that started it all: Caller: "Your staff was aware of where you were and they did have contact with you. Is that true?" Sanford: "Uh, as I've said several different times. It was a backchannel way of getting a hold of me and ultimately folks did and I changed my flight and came back home." Caller: "Right, so the media's just overplaying this." Rose: That's pretty much how the rest of the hour went. I should say that the host of the show, Keven Cohen, has called for the Governor to resign and he pushed back several times. But a lot of people were expecting a big show because this was the first time Sanford took calls from a live radio audience. It didn't live up to the hype. Graf: Radio callers are only part of the equation right? On the state political front, things seem to be heating up for Sanford? Rose: Yes, the latest blow comes from the Representative Bobby Harrell - he's the Speaker of the Republican-led House. House Speaker Bobby Harrell: "The issues we have facing our state and the work that needs to be accomplished is just too important to spend the next year bogged down in the distractions that Governor Sanford's actions have created," says Speaker Harrell. "For the good of our state, Governor Sanford should step aside." Rose: The majority of State Senators also want Sanford out. And two weeks ago, Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer went public with his own call for resignation. And from there, the story got even stranger. Graf: "Right, there's this uproar now about whether or not Bauer is gay? Rose: That lit up the blogosphere and got play on some political websites. It's also got a lot of political insiders on edge. Because, remember that if Sanford resigns or is impeached, it's Lieutenant Governor Bauer who would take his place. So last week, State Senator Jake Knotts who's a long-time opponent of Governor Sanford, sent a letter to all of his senate colleagues accusing the Governor and his supporters of starting the rumors. The thinking is state lawmakers might be hesitant to remove Governor Sanford if they suspect a gay man would replace him. For his part, Bauer says he is not gay. Graf: But Sanford still insists he's not resigning. So what options does that leave? Rose: Impeachment. But that's a tricky thing. It would have to start in the house and require a 2/3rds vote before going to the Senate. And doing all of that in a special session would cost at least 100-thousand dollars a week. So, I asked political scientist Scott Huffmon from Winthrop University what he thinks the threshold needs to be for lawmakers to go ahead with impeachment. Scott Huffmon: "It has to be a sure thing," says Huffmon. "It has to be something that can seem like a unified effort. If they have a special session, it actually doesn't happen, they can't seem unified and they don't have enough votes then it would absolutely backfire on the legislature." Rose: And keep in mind, most members of the state house are running for re-election next year. And a lot of them have a stake in who they want to see elected to replace Sanford. So all of that is coloring the situation. For now, members of the House are inclined to wait for the results of an ethics investigation before deciding on impeachment. That investigation is looking into Sanford's use of the state plane and other travels. It's the first time a sitting governor in South Carolina has been investigated by the state ethics commission. And it won't be done for at least another month. Graf: Can they only impeach Sanford if they can prove he broke the law? Rose: No. The legislature has a lot of lee-way to decide what merits impeachment. The popular phrase going around is dereliction of duty. Did Sanford do that when he went to Argentina? Some lawmakers think so. As one insider said, impeachment is often more political than it is criminal. Graf: Okay, Julie. Thanks.