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South Carolina GOP says governor must go; Sanford fires back


South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford spent yesterday afternoon defending himself against legislative critics calling for his resignation. But the calls are getting louder. Last night, the South Carolina Republican Party was the latest to urge Sanford to step down. WFAE's Julie Rose reports. In July, the leadership of the Republican Party in South Carolina decided to censure Sanford for abandoning his duties as Governor during a five-day trip to Argentina to visit his mistress. At the time, members of the party believed Sanford was contrite and could get back on track as Governor. But last night the party's executive committee voted by a two-thirds majority to ask Sanford to resign. South Carolina GOP Chairwoman Karen Floyd says the scandal-ridden Governor is now damaging the Party and its candidates by staying in office. "It's something I cannot abide in my role as Party Chairman," says Floyd. "And so I and the executive committee of the State of South Carolina Republican Party formally request the Governor's resignation." Just a few months ago, Sanford was the darling of conservatives for his stance against big government and wasteful spending. Now it appears he has few friends in political circles. This week, 61 of the 72 Republicans in the state House of Representatives urged Sanford to resign. A major of state senators also want him to step down. But Sanford is fighting back. "I'll use every tool in the toolbox," says Sanford. "We will use legal action if necessary." Sanford held a press conference Thursday to accuse the General Assembly of trying to circumvent an ongoing investigation by the State Ethics Commission. "We have a real problem if members of the General Assembly are going to try to influence and truncate an ethics committee process so they can get the intended result that they want and use it for impeachment," said Sanford. An investigation of Sanford's travel and use of the state plane is underway by the Ethics Commission, but is not likely to be complete for several weeks. The Commission intends to release its preliminary report to the House even before the full commission deliberates on the investigation's findings and decides whether Sanford actually broke the law. Governor Sanford wants the results of the investigation to be released only after the Ethics Commission has heard his defense, deliberated and made its final decision. Otherwise, he says: "What you're doing is you're setting up a kangaroo court where you ought to just base the whole thing on media headlines or opponents accusations," says Sanford. Sanford and his attorneys believe it is actually illegal for the Ethics Commission to give the preliminary investigation report to the General Assembly because it can only be released to a prosecutorial body. Sanford's attorney, Butch Bowers, says the General Assembly doesn't qualify. "Even if we get down the road of impeachment - I'm not here to talk about that - but even if we did, they're still not a prosecutorial body," says Bowers. "Because if you look at the constitution, impeachment does not involve criminal sanctions. All it involves - the ultimate remedy in impeachment is removal from office." But Ethics Commission executive director Herbert Hayden says the House does qualify to receive the preliminary report if it has begun impeachment proceedings. He adds that Governor Sanford is free to file a motion with the Commission and argue his point. Sanford's opponents say they're rather the Governor simply resign because the ongoing scandal is too much of a distraction for the state. But Sanford says they're only making the distraction worse with letters calling for his resignation. And the mail is piling up.