One of the reasons so many South Carolina residents and politicians alike are hesitant to press forcefully for the resignation of our love-struck governor Mark Sanford has to do with the man who would succeed him.
Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer, like Sanford a far-right Republican conservative, hasn’t shown a whole lot more maturity than the graying teenager currently inhabiting the governor’s mansion.
During an interview earlier this week, the 40-year-old bachelor with the bedroom eyes voluntarily brought up the topic of his sexual orientation, which he said has been the subject of rumors.
Asked, then, if he’s homosexual, Bauer said: “One word, two letters. ‘No.’ Let’s go ahead and dispel that now.
“Is Andre Bauer gay? That is now the story,” he said. “We’re a long way from where we were a week ago.
“We have diverted what the real topic should be here: Is the governor capable for carrying on the duties for which he was elected?”
But Bauer’s opponents won’t have to look far for ammunition against him. Bauer is beloved by many. But his political career has been plagued by missteps both political and personal.
When Bauer was a state representative, he decided at the last minute to run for an open Senate seat, moving to Chapin and changing his voter registration on the last day of filing.
In 2003, while running late, Bauer ran two red lights in downtown Columbia before stopping for a police officer, who quickly pointed a gun at him. Originally charged with reckless driving, the lieutenant governor pleaded guilty to two lesser charges and paid a $311.25 fine.
In 2006, Bauer was pulled over by a state trooper after he was clocked at 101 mph on an interstate. Bauer used his state-issued radio to tell the officer he was “S.C. 2” – code for lieutenant governor. He was not ticketed. When asked about it later, Bauer at first denied the story.
But Bauer has defended himself at every turn. He says “that officer was wrong,” referring to the Columbia police officer who pulled a gun on him.
And he said he did not try to use his influence to get out of a speeding ticket – and that he did not deny that he was pulled over.
“(The reporter) asked, ‘Did you get a speeding ticket?’ and I said ‘no.’ And that was the truth. Had he asked, ‘Did you get pulled?’ I’d have said ‘yes.’ And there is a vast difference there.”
But some don’t see the difference and wonder if Bauer has the credibility to restore respect to the governor’s office should Sanford resign or be forced out.
“After a scandal, the person who comes in after has to rebuild trust between voters and this highest office,” said Doug Woodard, political science professor at Clemson University. “Now you’ve got a problem. You’ve got a guy who’s got a reputation of doing some reckless things.”
“It’s rare that I drive anymore. If I have anybody with me I say, ‘Will you drive?’ because I am paranoid about anything I do,“ Bauer said.
“I’m scared to drink a beer in public. Somebody will take a picture and they’ll say, ‘Bauer’s an alcoholic. He’s a drunk.’ People expect elected leaders to be something they are not. They make mistakes. What you want out of a leader is you want them leading.”
In 2006, in the midst of his first race for lieutenant governor, he crashed a small plane he was flying. After getting out of the hospital, he garnered support for his runoff battle against Mike Campbell, son of previous S.C. Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell, by hobbling across a 2.7-mile bridge in Charleston with his leg in a cast.
Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a 54-year-old bachelor who’s a close political ally of Bauer, agrees that the lieutenant governor is not gay, and is quick to add, “I’m not either.”