Gov. Evan Me-cham said he is confident he will be exonerated on two remaining impeachment counts after the state Senate dismissed the most serious of three impeachment charges against him.

"I've been accepting the body blows for about 15 months now, and the ribs are a little bit bruised," Mecham, an auto dealer and perennial political outsider, told a group of GOP supporters Wednesday.But he said he still had plans for "when I get back" in the governor's office.

The vote to dismiss the third charge Wednesday was a surprise to most involved, including the senator who made the motion, Republican Wayne Stump.

Several of those who voted to dismiss said they wanted to avoid prejudicing Me-cham's upcoming criminal trial on the charge that he concealed a $350,000 campaign loan. That would have been the subject of evidence on the third impeachment charge and Stump said it would have put the governor in "quasi-double jeopardy."

The decision set the stage for a vote as early as Monday on two other charges against the first-term Republican, who also faces a May 17 recall election and an April 21 criminal trial.

Mecham remains accused of misusing $80,000 from the governor's protocol fund by loaning it to his auto dealership and of trying to thwart an investigation ofan alleged death threat by a state official.

The dismissal motion passed on a simple majority with 16 of those pres-ent voting in favor and 12 voting no. Two senators were absent. Those voting for the motion were an unusual coalition of all 11 Senate Democrats plus five Republicans who have steadfastly supported the governor.

Lawmakers refused to predict whether there will be the two-thirds majority of the 30-member Senate needed to convict on the remaining two charges.