Sheheen: Sanford should resign

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By Chris Sardelli

Less than a week after Gov. Mark Sanford revealed his involvement in an extramarital affair, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen has urged him to resign.

“I think it’s unfortunate that it (this issue) is not going to go away. It just seems to be getting worse and not better,” Sheheen told The Lancaster News on Tuesday. “My concern is that the state’s leadership is not tackling the issues that need to be tackled. And that’s why I’m asking for his resignation.”

Sheheen, D-District 27, referred to a written statement he issue earlier Tuesday, calling for Sanford to step down.

In the statement, Sheheen, who has announced that he will run for governor in 2010, said several “crucial facts have already come to light.” He said Sanford misled his staff and the public about his whereabouts, used taxpayer money to fund a personal trip to Argentina and failed to tell anyone he was leaving the country June 18.

“The governor’s office is a place for leadership, not a forum for self-healing. And that is why, with much regret over the circumstances that have brought us to this point, I believe Gov. Sanford should take the only action that will allow South Carolina to move forward. He should resign his office,” Sheheen said in the statement.

The statement was released shortly after Sanford admitted during an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday that he met his mistress several times, including during a few trips to New York City. During his June 24 press conference, Sanford admitted to having a year-long affair with a woman from Argentina, whom he had known for more than eight years. There he apologized to his wife, Jenny, and his four sons, and said his wife had learned of the affair about five months ago.

In a previous statement, released June 24, Sheheen initially expressed concern for Sanford’s family and asked that their privacy be respected. At that time, the senator had hoped to concentrate less on the scandal, and more on social and economic issues affecting the state.

But in his latest statement, Sheheen said the issue had become too large to ignore. He said the state had become a “laughing stock” when it instead needs to be a “serious contender for new jobs and business development.”

“I sincerely regret the necessity of addressing these issues, but it is an obligation that cannot be shirked by those of us who lead our state.  We are in the midst of a governmental crisis,” Sheheen said.

“Every elected official holds a public trust. The governor’s actions constitute a serious breach of that trust. If Gov. Sanford were an employee in the private sector, I have no doubt he would have been fired by now. If he were a Cabinet head working for this very governor, he would have been forced to resign already.”

Gov. Sanford also released a statement Tuesday afternoon in reaction to Attorney Gen. Henry McMaster’s announcement that he was calling for a preliminary investigation into the governor’s travel history.

“We’re pleased that SLED (the State Law Enforcement Division) will look into this matter,” Sanford said in the statement. “There’s been a lot of speculation and innuendo on whether or not public monies were used to advance my admitted unfaithfulness. To be very clear: no public money was ever used in connection with this. We believe the best way to put those questions to rest once and for all is for SLED to ask these questions, and we plan on cooperating fully.”

Sheheen, an attorney who lives in Camden, represents a portion of southern Lancaster County in the state Senate.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416