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Push for governor to resign growing

The S.C. House overwhelmingly wants Gov. Mark Sanford to resign. House Democrats on Friday joined their Republican colleagues in asking Sanford to step down.

Last month, 61 of 72 House Republicans signed a letter asking Sanford to resign because South Carolinians had "suffered enough" as a result of the governor's secret five-day trip to Argentina, his admitted extramarital affair and the distraction it has become in S.C. politics.

On a voice vote described as "near unanimous" during a House Democratic Caucus meeting in Charleston, a similar motion requesting Sanford vacate his post was approved.

Previously, the General Assembly's two most powerful lawmakers, House Speaker Bobby Harrell, a Charleston Republican, and Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, had also asked the governor to resign. The state Republican Party approved a similar measure, asking Sanford to remove himself.

"The entire General Assembly, by virtue of the voting in caucus, has asked for the governor to resign," said Rep. Todd Rutherford, a Columbia Democrat. "But not only has the governor refused to do so, he has also backtracked on making the Ethics Commission proceedings public."

Sanford has refused to resign and is fighting efforts to remove him from office. How the calls for Sanford to resign will affect an expected bid in the General Assembly to impeach the governor is unclear. Two-thirds of lawmakers in the House and Senate would have to agree to remove the governor.

Sanford is the subject of an ongoing S.C. Ethics Commission investigation into his use of the state plane for reasons other than official business, his purchase of pricey airline tickets, and his failure to report private plane rides he accepted from friends and political allies.

Sanford's spokesman Ben Fox said the move shows legislators are out of touch.

"We continue to see a disconnect between working people and some politicians on where we go from here," Fox said. "We're hearing overwhelmingly that people are ready to get back to work, and that's where our focus has been and will continue to be."

Lawmakers' focus is on weighing the evidence against Sanford and judging whether it is enough to impeach him.

Harrell has said the House will wait on the Ethics Commission report.

But Rep. Greg Delleney, a Chester Republican, said recently Sanford's secret trip in which he was unreachable by his staff is enough to remove the governor.

Sanford, who this week asked the S.C. Supreme Court to keep an initial report on its findings shielded for House lawmakers who might be weighing his impeachment, said impeachment talk is fueled by his political rivals.

Not so, said Rutherford, who serves on the Judiciary Committee that would vote first on an impeachment measure.

"Only four or five of the 25 members of the Judiciary Committee have been willing to say they support impeachment," Rutherford said. "We will await the facts and then act."