Cover Story: Gov. Sanford defends himself

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WBTV) - Calls for South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford to resign, now coming from one of the State's top ranking Republicans.  House Speaker Bobby Harrell sent the Governor a letter asking him to step down.

He says the Governor is causing constant distractions, stemming from his admitted affair with an Argentine mistress.

Rep. Harrell's actions are significant.

He is one of only two people who can decide whether South Carolina lawmakers will return to Columbia early for a special session.

That special session could lead to impeachment.

Meanwhile as PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson reports in our Cover Story Sanford is reaching out to average South Carolinians to convince them he should remain in office.

The governor fielded calls from listeners to a talk radio station in Columbia.

Mr. Sanford has been traveling the state to apologize for a secret trip to Argentina in June to meet the woman he has called his "soul mate."

Today's one-hour appearance was another effort to try to improve his image with average South Carolinians.

If Sanford's opponents were hoping for fireworks from angry voters.. they were disappointed after this evening's interview on talk radio.

Right out of the gate the governor fell on his sword once again.

"I had a real moral failure. We've talked about it and South Carolinians talked about it."

While there has seemingly been outrage on the streets over Sanford's affair and recent revelations regarding his travel arrangements.. Sanford fielded mostly affable questions from callers.

When questioned about Republicans within his own party.. who met in Myrtle Beach two weekends ago.. calling for his impeachment.. Sanford wouldn't bite.. he said it was for the General Assembly to decide.

"I'm not looking for a fight.  The moral wrong was mine. It's consequences past present and future are mine.. and I'm working through those. But there is a very different story that's led the headlines and that's been about spending that's many cases being driven by politics."

Three recent media investigations have raised questions about Sanford's travel.. leading to a state ethics investigation and to one state senator to accuse Sanford of breaking the law.

Today.. one of South Carolina's most powerful politicians.. House Speaker Bobby Harrell called for Sanford to resign.. Harrell will be one of two who will decide whether a Special Session of the General Assembly should be called to consider impeachment.

For his part.. the governor says he's not stepping down.

"I think there is a real opportunity to get a couple things done that are important to improving the lives of.. ... folks around the state."

Sanford called himself imperfect when it came to the extramarital affair he revealed in June.. but said scrutiny of his other travels is misguided.

Again, he vowed to stay in office and continue trying to restructure government.. whether he gets that chance no one knows at this point.

Articles of impeachment not far off?

At least two House members are drawing up Articles of Impeachment.. they're trying to convince the House Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tem to call a Special Session in October and November to deal with the Sanford affair so as not to distract when the regular session begins in January.