Beaufort News

Area representatives divided on signing letter asking for Sanford to resign

State Rep. Shannon Erickson said Thursday she would need to see proof that Gov. Mark Sanford broke state laws before she would call on him to resign.

Of the 72 members of the S.C. House Republican Caucus, the Beaufort Republican was one of 11 who did not sign a letter Wednesday asking the embattled governor to quit.

Reps. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, and Richard Chalk, R-Hilton Head Island, both signed the letter.

Any move to impeach Sanford would begin in the House.

The governor's state and private travel and use of state aircraft have come under scrutiny since he admitted in June a yearlong affair with a woman in Argentina. The S.C. Ethics Commission recently launched an investigation into the travel issue, the results of which Erickson said she wants to review before taking a position.

She expects the commission's report by the end of the month and will support impeachment or call for Sanford's resignation if there is proof he broke the law.

"I think that somebody is innocent until proven guilty," said Erickson, who sent an e-mail to more than 400 constituents explaining why she did not sign the caucus letter.

"When I have a fact that is legal and defensible, I will move on it," she said. "Just being upset and not liking what happened isn't enough. The people elected me to send me there to make a judgment call and that's what I'm trying to do."

Herbkersman and Chalk, however, said the fact that Sanford left the state for nearly a week to visit his Argentine lover -- without informing or notifying anyone -- was a dereliction of duty and warrants the governor's resignation.

"That was the tipping point for me," Herbkersman said. "We have worked so hard to focus on ... the economy and bringing jobs to South Carolina. This is really taking the focus off what we're trying to do and putting the focus on something we shouldn't even be wasting time on."

Chalk agreed, adding that he hoped Sanford would be willing to take the advice of lawmakers who had the state's best interest at heart and were not playing politics.

"Since his revelation back in June, there's been nothing but constant issues that have continued to arise," Chalk said. "The atmosphere that's been created has become a distraction from us addressing what we need to address. The office is bigger than him, and it will go on with or without him."

In a lengthy response posted on his Web site, Sanford said Wednesday that lawmakers were likely driven to call for his resignation by misinformation circulated by the media and his political opponents.

"Amidst this circus I think we have a genuine opportunity, and this is the only reason I am still here," Sanford wrote. "It has been a great honor to have fought for liberty and for limited and more efficient, accountable and transparent government, and I am more than ready to get back to that work that does make a difference in people's lives."