It's unclear how much longer Lt. Gov. Ken Ard will be able to remain on the job.

The Florence Republican and businessman, now into his second year in the part-time position, soon may learn if a state grand jury will indict him.

Speculation about what might happen has been rising in Columbia, but those in the know are saying nothing publicly.

Just weeks after taking the oath of office, Ard came under scrutiny for his campaign spending, particularly $24,832 he spent after the 2010 election.

The State Ethics Commission then accused Ard of 92 violations, including using campaign money for personal purposes. He paid the second-highest ethics fine in the state's history.

The state grand jury's decision could be the next shoe to drop, and state senators have been talking among themselves about what would happen next. Ard did not return a message left at his office Wednesday.

State Sen. John Courson, R-Columbia, said Wednesday he would not rule out seeking the lieutenant governor's seat should Ard have to step down.

"There are a lot of dominoes that would have to fall," he said, "but I have indicated to senators who have contacted me about it that I would consider it."

The state's constitution calls for the Senate president pro tem -- currently Republican Glenn McConnell of Charleston -- to assume Ard's job.

McConnell faced a similar prospect of becoming lieutenant governor a few years ago when some thought Gov. Mark Sanford might resign. And McConnell, whose pro tem position is considered by some to be more powerful than the governor's, did not want to.

In 2009, he said the prospect of Sanford's resignation "does present problems for me, there's no question about that." He did not return a message Wednesday.

State Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, said even if Ard is indicted, he would not have to resign or leave office until he pleaded guilty to a felony or was convicted of one, though Ard no longer would preside over the Senate while the case is pending.

"The lieutenant governor is still facing the possibility of indictment, but he's been facing that since around October or so. It's been many months. Something may happen. Something may not. You never know," Grooms said. "There a lot of 'what ifs' that can't be answered until the lieutenant governor is cleared or actually indicted. Everything else is pure speculation."

McConnell could step down from his post, see Courson or another senator elected to it and then become lieutenant governor, then seek re-election as pro tem.

With three decades of seniority in the Senate and 11 years as its president pro tem in 2001, McConnell once wrote a resignation letter effective upon the lieutenant governor's position becoming vacant. He later tore it up.

Courson, 67, said were he to become lieutenant governor, he would not seek re-election to that office and probably would never seek another post.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.