By Nikki Gaskinsngaskins@abcnews4.com
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) One day after allegations that he used campaign money to buy staffers gag gifts from adult stores, longtime Sen. Robert Ford resigned.
Hours later, he issued the following statement:
"If I was ten years younger, I would stay and fight. But at this point in my life, I feel this is the best decision for everyone concerned," he said in an e-mail. "I am proud to have represented you in the legislature - but more importantly, I am honored to be considered your friend."
He submitted a letter of resignation Friday to Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell stating that he decided to resign "due to his health."
He goes on to say in the letter that he will continue to be a "soldier for peace, a drum major for justice, and a working advocate for those that are less fortunate and those that need a helping hand in meeting the challenges of life."
Despite his colorful past, Ford stated in the resignation that he's convinced that his service in the senate has "made a difference, improved lives, and left my beloved state of South Carolina better than I found her."
Fellow Politicians React to Resignation
State Rep. Chip Limehouse was out of town in Aiken when he learned about Ford's resignation but spoke to ABCNews4 by phone.
"It came as a surprise to me," said Limehouse. "Sometimes it's best to step away from the situation. He probably made the right decision."
Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey said he's known Ford for years and spoke to him just a few days ago.
"You know it's a sad day for fold in North Charleston," said Summey. "All this ethic stuff beside and all that he always stood up for the people he represented and I think that was the most important thing to know about Robert."
Earlier in the day, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley reacted to the news of Ford's resignation.
"I'm very sorry that Sen. Ford is having the difficulties about his finance funds," stated Riley. "He has been a very hard working and dutiful member of the general assembly and fights for the average person. I wish him well in the future."
ABCNews4 also reached out to Rep. Wendell Gaillard, but he not returned requests for comment.
Political Expert on Ford's Political Scandal
Political analyst Gibbs Knotts says Ford's controversy is another example that demonstrates the need for ethics reform.
"There are a lot of politicians who've gotten into ethical trouble in South Carolina, and it really underscores the need for ethics reform-something that is in the legislation right now," said Knotts.
While some politicians survive scandal, including former Gov. Mark Sanford, the verdict, he says, is still out on Ford's political future.
"His political career is certainly on hold if not finished, and he may even face criminal charges," said Knotts.
He says voters tend to be more forgiving when the scandal involves infidelity--and not the misuse of funds.
"Those tend to hurt politicians even worse," said Knotts. "The public wants to be able to trust politicians with their money."
With Ford officially stepping down from a position he's held for 20 years, this opens the doors for new candidates eager to fill the spot.
A spokesperson for the South Carolina Election Commission says for those interested in running, filing will open on June 21 and close on July 1. If a primary is necessary, that would then take place on Aug. 13. If a runoff is needed, that would take place on Aug. 27.
The special election would then take place on Oct. 1.