COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford rebuffed his lieutenant governor's call to resign yesterday, saying he will not be "railroaded" out of office and plans to finish the last 16 months of his term.
Mr. Sanford returned from a nearly weeklong disappearance in June to admit an affair with a woman in Argentina, which led to questions about the legality of his travel on state, private, and commercial planes.
At a news conference yesterday hours after Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer called for him to step down, Mr. Sanford said the people of South Carolina want to move past the scandals.
"I'm not going to be railroaded out of this office by political opponents or folks who were never fans of mine in the first place," Mr. Sanford said. "A lot of what is going on now is pure politics, plain and simple."
Mr. Bauer and Mr. Sanford are Republicans who have served together for two terms but were elected separately and never have been friends.
Some Republicans are reluctant to seek Mr. Sanford's resignation or impeachment because they do not want to give Mr. Bauer what would amount to a long-term tryout for the job.
If Mr. Sanford steps down before his term ends in January, 2011, Mr. Bauer has promised not to run in 2010, so that is not an issue. "The serious misconduct that has been revealed along with lingering questions and continuing distractions make it virtually impossible for our state to solve the critical problems we're facing without a change in leadership," Mr. Bauer said. House Republicans are expected to discuss this week what it would take to impeach Mr. Sanford.
The House is expected to launch impeachment proceedings when lawmakers return for their regular session in January, though they could hold a special session before then. Any House member can make the proposal.
Mr. Sanford said heeding Mr. Bauer's call to resign would be like "heaven on earth" because it would get him out of the public eye, but it would not be right.
"Me hanging up the spurs 16 months out, as comfortable as that would be, as much as I might like to do that on a personal basis, it is wrong," he said.
Mr. Bauer said he tried to give Mr. Sanford the benefit of the doubt after he admitted his affair, but the state has been paralyzed by questions about the legality of his official travel. Mr. Bauer said he worries that the calls for impeachment will dominate next year's legislative session instead of issues like the economy and job creation.