For the last six years, it has been my distinct honor to serve as Lt. Governor of the State of South Carolina. During this time, I have served alongside Governor Sanford, with whom I have not always agreed on every issue.
Despite these differences, I have given the Governor my support in the best interest of the people of South Carolina. In every instance, when called upon, I have worked hard and given my best efforts to serve our state well.
When asked to stand in for the Governor to lead international trade missions, for instance, I have used these occasions to produce new economic opportunities for our state. Most notably, since being asked by the Governor to lead the Office on Aging, I have worked tirelessly, restructuring the agency to provide needed services to the senior population of our state as effectively and efficiently as possible.
And throughout Governor Sanford’s recent controversies, I have remained supportive in order to provide stability to our government and reassurance to those industrial prospects that may be considering bringing new jobs to the people of our state.
Now, however, things have changed. Regrettably, we have reached a point where we must ALL put the best interests of the people of South Carolina ahead of personal or political interests.
It is my opinion that the best interests of the people can no longer be served with the current administration. The serious misconduct that has already been revealed, along with lingering questions and continuing distractions, make it virtually impossible for our state to solve the critical problems we are facing without a change of leadership.
That is why I must now call upon Governor Sanford -- in the interest of our state -- to resign, and spare the taxpayers the expense and distraction of the multiple legal processes which are now being considered; and it is why I myself will lead the way by putting the best interests of the people of South Carolina ahead of my own personal and political interests.
If the Governor does not resign now, then the Legislature must act quickly to resolve this matter this year so that the 2010 session of the General Assembly does not become bogged down in an impeachment proceeding, taking time and effort away from the more important tasks of bringing jobs to our state, balancing our budget, and improving education.
And as the Legislature acts to uphold its constitutional responsibility in this matter, I would further call upon each and every member of The General Assembly to rise above partisan politics in making these very important decisions.
Published reports – ranging from The New York Times to a number of our own local news organizations – have made it clear that some have allowed the potential impact on the 2010 Governors race to cloud their decision-making on this matter. Some elected officials who know the state would be better served by a change in leadership are nonetheless working to prevent that change due to their own political interests. This is unfortunate.
So that each member of the Legislature will be free to take actions in the best interest of our state without political interference, I want to eliminate that dilemma for them by sacrificing my own political aspirations, and putting the best interests of the people of South Carolina above my own personal political interests.
Although I am, and have been, planning to be a candidate for Governor in the 2010 election, I will forego my candidacy if I am called upon to fill a vacancy as Governor prior to my official announcement this fall.
Overcoming the challenges facing our state – recruiting the industries needed to put South Carolinians back to work; providing the education opportunities which our children need and deserve; raising the income level of our working families; finding new and creative solutions to our health care crisis – is far more important than the political future of any one person, myself included.
While I would certainly prefer to serve a full four-year term as Governor, the work that must be done during the next year – prior to the November 2010 election – cannot be ignored. With unemployment at an all-time high and our state budget in real trouble -- the needs of the people cannot wait. If, during the next month, I am called upon, I pledge to devote the hardest-working year of my life to solving these problems, free from any re-election campaign or other distraction. If not, of course, I will go forward with my plans to announce my official candidacy this fall.
It is my hope that this commitment eliminates political interference from the process, and allows the Legislature to immediately fulfill the responsibilities that the constitution of our state requires.
Now is the time for true leadership to step forward and show the mature leadership and selfless dedication that the people of South Carolina deserve. Now is the time to put the interest of the people first, regardless of political consequences.
I am calling on all other leaders in our state to join me in putting their own interests aside so that we might work together for a better, brighter South Carolina.