HARTFORD, Conn. – Six more Republican state senators called Monday for Gov. John G. Rowland (search) to resign, as did U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays (search), and a new poll indicated the governor's public support continues to erode.
In a news conference at the state Capitol complex, Shays said he had been prepared to forgive his fellow Republican for lying about accepting gifts from employees and a state contractor.
"But I am not prepared to stand by a governor, even a friend, who has done wrong, lied about it and then refused to account for his actions," said Shays, who is serving his ninth term in Congress. He had called on Rowland to offer a fuller explanation of his actions.
The University of Connecticut poll found 63 percent of state residents think Rowland should resign. A similar poll taken last week put the number at 58 percent.
The new poll finds 56 percent of residents support impeachment, compared with 50 percent last week.
"Public opinion about Rowland continues to spiral downward," said UConn poll director Ken Dautrich.
The six Republican senators who came out in favor of resignation joined five other Republican senators who did so last week. There are 15 Republicans and 21 Democrats in the Senate.
"Mindful of the potential that we may have the obligation to act as jurors in an impeachment trial and knowing that this decision belongs to Governor Rowland alone, we believe that the interests of the state of Connecticut would be best served were the governor to resign," the six said in a statement Monday. They are Judith Freedman, George "Doc" Gunther, Thomas Herlihy, John McKinney, Andrew Roraback and Win Smith Jr.
If impeached in the House, Rowland would stand trial in the 36-member Senate. A two-thirds majority would be required to remove him from office.
Rowland, a third-term Republican, has admitted accepting gifts from several politically appointed state employees, including a former aide, Lawrence Alibozek (search), who has pleaded guilty to federal charges that he took bribes to steer state contracts. He also accepted work for his cottage from the Tomasso Group (search), a New Britain contractor at the center of a federal investigation into corruption in Rowland's administration.
Federal agents say Rowland is now a subject of their probe.
Earlier, all 15 Republican senators had backed a proposal by House Republicans that would convene a bipartisan committee to investigate the scandal. Such a committee would be a step shy of starting the impeachment process, as some Democrats want. The final decision on which option to take is up to the speaker of the House, Rep. Moira Lyons (search), a Democrat.
"The governor, like any private citizen accused of wrongdoing, is entitled to due process and a thorough investigation of the facts," Senate Republican Leader Louis C. DeLuca said Sunday.
State Senate Democrats as a group have already called on the governor to resign and said they would support beginning impeachment proceedings.
Dean Pagani, Rowland's chief of staff, said Sunday that if an investigative committee is formed, the governor hopes the process will be fair.
The poll released Monday questioned Connecticut residents by telephone from Thursday to Sunday. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Almost three-quarters of Democrats, two-thirds of independents and 40 percent of Republicans think the governor should go, the poll found.
Meanwhile, Rowland's office said the governor has no plans to step down from two advisory panels to the Bush administration. He serves on the White House Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations and a homeland security committee of state and local officials.
Rowland will also continue to serve as state chairman of President Bush's re-election campaign. That position is bestowed upon the highest-ranking Republican in the state.