If Gov. Mark Sanford were to resign, it would affect the official many feel is actually the most powerful in state government: Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell.

If Sanford steps down and is replaced by Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, then the state's constitution calls McConnell, R-Charleston, to replace Bauer as lieutenant governor.

In effect, McConnell would be demoted from his top Senate leadership post in this Legislative-dominated state to a part-time constitutional officer, and he reportedly isn't interested.

Attempts to reach McConnell Wednesday were unsuccessful, though he issued a statement saying Sanford's recent admissions "have raised (questions) in my mind whether the Governor can effectively lead the state in the days, weeks, and months to come."

Meanwhile, several state senators have been talking about how all this might play out.

"I'll be frank with you. There have been some discussions among individual senators about that," state Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said Wednesday, "but it's way, way too premature, and I think the big problem in discussing that is it takes us away form the larger problem we now face with the governor."

The last time a South Carolina governor left office before his term ended was 1965, when Gov. Donald Russell resigned to assume a U.S. Senate seat.

The lieutenant governor's office stayed vacant for about 20 months because the Senate President Pro Tem at that time didn't want the job.

But leaving the job vacant now isn't considered an option either because the state recently gave the lieutenant governor the authority to oversee the state's Office on Aging.

The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate but is not a senator and only votes in case of a tie.

"McConnell would never the leave the senate for nothing like that," State Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, said.

Ford said he already has heard from state Sen. Ronnie Cromer, R-Prosperity, about his interest in the seat. "I think he's a swell person, a great person," Ford said. "If he runs, he probably would win."

Martin, who has called for Sanford to resign, said it's too early for anyone to campaign for the job. "It would be appear to be very self serving on anybody's part to, on one hand, advocate for the governor to resign and, on another hand, be a candidate for that position."

Complicating the question further is that the Senate has adjourned its session for the year.

"I don't know how that will play out since we're not in session. We'll have to give that some serious legal review, and we will at the appropriate time," Martin said. "What we would do under the X, Y and Z scenarios undermines the discussion about the governor right now, and I'd really rather not do that."

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771 or at rbehre@postandcourier.com.