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Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford will challenge Donald Trump for GOP nomination

Sanford says Trump has strayed from Republican orthodoxy and damaged political institutions

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

Note: Video of Sanford’s announcement is at end of post.

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford has announced he will challenge President Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination, faulting the president for straying from GOP orthodoxy on spending and trade and damaging the nation’s political culture.

“I think we need to have a conversation on what it means to be a Republican. I think that as a Republican Party, we have lost our way,” Sanford said on Fox News Sunday, where he announced his challenge on September 8. “Americans deserve and need a choice.”

Sanford announces on Fox News Sunday

Despite his long pedigree in politics, which includes two terms as governor and 12 years in the U.S. House, Sanford faces the steepest of uphill climbs in trying to unseat Trump, whose approval ratings among Republicans top 80 percent.

The Republican National Committee has shut down the possibility of primary debates, and state parties have begun scrapping primary contests against Trump — including Sanford’s home state of South Carolina.

The president, who announced his 2020 re-election bid shortly after his inauguration in 2017, has already raised $125 million for the coming campaign.

Asked about the long odds he faces, Sanford noted that Trump was also considered a long shot when he ran in 2016 and insisted rank-and-file Republicans are more interested in a primary contest than their party leaders.

“This is the beginning of a long walk, but it begins with that first step,” he said.

Sanford said he would emphasize the ballooning level of spending and debt on Trump’s watch and the president’s tariffs policy, both of which he said are a departure from conventional Republican positions of spending restraint and free trade.

He said his campaign would also provide the opportunity to discuss “the degree to which institutions and political culture are being damaged by this president.”

“Those institutions and that political culture is really the glue that holds together our balance of power,” Sanford said.

He also took a slap at Trump’s use of his favorite medium of communication, Twitter.

“At the end of the day, a tweet is interesting, maybe newsworthy, but it’s not leadership,” he said. “And we’re not going to solve some of the profound problems that we have as Americans by tweet.”

After winning his second term as the Palmetto State’s governor in 2006, Sanford was being mentioned as a possible presidential candidate for 2012 — until he disappeared after telling his staff that he was off hiking the Appalachian Trail, when he was actually in Argentina canoodling with his mistress.

Ignoring calls to resign, Sanford completed his term in 2011. Two years later, he came back from the political graveyard by reclaiming his Low Country House seat in a special election.

After Trump was elected, Sanford became one of the few Republicans in the House willing to criticize him publicly. The president got his revenge by endorsing Sanford’s opponent on the day of the 2018 primary election — and taking great public glee when Sanford lost. (Democrat Joe Cunningham won the seat in November.)

Sanford told Fox News that his run against Trump is not personal but based on principle, noting that he voted with the president 90 percent of the time. But he said Trump’s active opposition to his re-election “is indicative of the way he makes too many things personal.”

“The world of Trump is personal loyalty,” he said.

In addition to Sanford, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh from Illinois are running against Trump. Weld comes from the GOP’s moderate wing; Walsh, like Sanford, is a conservative.

In addition to South Carolina, Republicans in Nevada and Kansas have also canceled their 2020 primary contests.

Video of Sanford’s announcement

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Will South Carolina’s Mark Sanford pull the trigger on a 2020 primary challenge to President Trump?

Former governor and congressman tells Charleston newspaper he’s considering a run

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (CFP) — Last summer, President Donald Trump reacted with some glee after helping take out then-U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, who went down to defeat in his Lowcountry district to a GOP primary challenger whom Trump endorsed.

Mark Sanford

Now, Sanford is considering trying to once again resurrect his political career — with a long-shot challenge to Trump himself for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020.

“Sometimes in life you’ve got to say what you’ve got to say, whether there’s an audience or not for that message,” Sanford said in an interview with the Post and Courier newspaper, where he teased his intentions. “I feel convicted.”

Sanford said the GOP “has lost its way on debt, spending and financial matters,” issues that he said would be central to his campaign. He told the newspaper that he expects to decide within the next month whether to join the race against Trump.

But even the possibility of a Sanford challenge to Trump set off the state’s Republican Party chairman, Drew McKissick, who released a statement saying “the last time Mark Sanford had an idea this dumb, it killed his Governorship. This makes about as much sense as that trip up the Appalachian Trail.”

The state Democratic Party took a more light-hearted tone, tweeting: “We look forward to seeing mark [sic] on the trail! Always nice to see a candidate with fewer extra marital affairs than the president.”

In 2009, Sanford, then the Palmetto State’s governor, touched off a messy personal scandal when he disappeared from public view after telling reporters that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, when he was actually off canoodling with his Argentinian mistress.

He refused calls to resign and served out the rest of his term, then, in 2013, resurrected his political career by winning a special election in the 1st U.S. House District.

After Trump was elected in 2016, Sanford became one of a very small number of congressional Republicans willing to criticize the president, calling his behavior in office “weird,” criticizing his disparagement of Haiti and countries in Africa and calling his policy of imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum “an experiment with stupidity.”

Trump got his revenge in 2018 when State Rep. Katie Arrington defeated Sanford in the Republican primary, after getting a well-timed Twitter endorsement from the president on election day. However, the victory proved somewhat pyrrhic when Arrrington lost the seat to Democrat Joe Cunningham in November.

Sanford, 59, served a total of 13 years during his two stints in Congress and eight years as governor. He told the Post and Courier that if he doesn’t run against Trump, he won’t try to reclaim his former seat in Congress against Cunningham but might try to start a think tank focused on deficit issues.

The only Republican challenging Trump in 2020 so far is former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, who comes from the party’s moderate wing, unlike Sanford, who carved out a conservative record in Congress and as governor.

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U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham launches re-election bid with full-throated embrace of Donald Trump

Vice President Mike Pence travels to South Carolina for 2020 campaign kickoff

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

GREENVILLE, South Carolina (CFP) — U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham has become one of President Donald Trump’s most vigorous and unlikely defenders in the Senate. And now, he’s reaping the rewards.

Graham officially launched his 2020 re-election bid on March 30 with Vice President Mike Pence by his side at stops in Myrtle Beach and Greenville. And Pence brought greetings from the commander-in-chief.

“South Carolina and America need Lindsey Graham in the United States Senate, and I’m not the only one who thinks that where I work,” Pence told a rally in Greenville. “We’re standing next to this man because of the way he stood next to us.”

Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham campaign in Greenville (From WSPA via YouTube)

Graham also put his relationship with Trump front-and-center in his re-election campaign.

“Purpose No. 1 is to help President Trump in his second term, to be an ally of this president who has kept his word, who is making America great again and will continue to do so,” Graham said. “I want to help him because I believe in what he’s doing.”

It was not always thus. During the 2016 campaign, when he was running against Trump for president, Graham called him a “kook” who was “unfit for office.” In the general election, he voted for third-party candidate Evan McMullin, rather than embracing his party’s nominee — and openly admitted his apostasy to the press.

Graham had long been a champion of comprehensive immigration reform, the polar opposite of Trump’s stance on immigration policy. And his closest friend in the Senate was the late John McCain, Trump’s most persistent Senate critic.

But over the last year, Graham and Trump have warmed to each other, frequently playing golf together, and his previous criticism has been replaced with praise. And he has sided with the president in some very visible fights, most notably his defense of Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who faced allegations of sexual misconduct.

“I’ve come to find common ground with him,” Graham said of Trump in Greenville. “I like him, and he likes him, and that seems to be working for both of us.”

“Every day with President Trump is like Christmas. You don’t know what’s under the tree, but you know there’s something under it,” Graham said. “Some days it’s a good shotgun you’ve been wanting, and other days it’s a sweater. But it all works.”

Graham, 63, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is seeking his fourth term in the Senate in 2020. In his last two campaigns in 2008 and 2014, he faced primary challenges from opponents on the right who criticized him for being insufficiently conservative, particularly on the immigration issue.

Graham won both of those primaries, but in 2014 was held to 56 percent of the vote, not the strongest of showings for an incumbent senator.

If Graham needed a lesson in the perils of getting sideways with the president’s followers, it came last summer when then-U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, a Trump critic who represented the Lowcountry in Congress, was bounced in a Republican primary in which the president endorsed his opponent.

Having Trump on side in 2020 will make it much more difficult for successful challenge to Graham from within the party.

Graham has already drawn three Republican challengers, but none of them are well known and are unlikely to be a threat.

In his three previous Senate elections, Graham won the general election easily in a state where Republicans are dominant. But he could face a Democratic challenge in 2020 from Jamie Harrison, a Columbia attorney and former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, who has formed an exploratory committee for the 2020 race.

Democrats haven’t won a Senate race in the Palmetto State since 1998.

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Decision ’18: Democrats fail to make major breakthrough in the South

Republicans sweep U.S. Senate and governor’s races; Democrats make a net gain of at least 9 seats in the U.S. House

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

(CFP) — The big, blue wave that Democrats hoped would carry them to a breakthrough in the South crashed into the Republican’s big, red wall in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

Republicans won the high-profile governor’s race in Florida and held a lead in Georgia, easily defended U.S. Senate seats in Texas and Tennessee and appear to have ousted Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson in Florida.

Joe Manchin

The lone bright spot for Democrats in statewide races was in West Virginia, where U.S. Senator Joe Manchin held his seat.

Democrats did flip at least nine Republican-held U.S. House seats, ousting three incumbents in Virginia and winning a seat in South Carolina and another in Oklahoma that they had not won in more than 40 years. Three seats are still too close to call, with Republicans leading in two of them.

However, Republicans carried two-thirds of the 30 seats that Democrats had targeted across the region, including seven seats in Florida and Kentucky’s 6th District, where Democrat Amy McGrath failed to oust U.S. Rep. Andy Barr despite spending $7.8 million dollars.

Brian Kemp

Ron DeSantis

Republicans won all nine of the governor’s races in the South, including Florida, where Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis defeated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Georgia, where Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp was leading former State Rep. Stacey Abrams by 60,000 votes with some mail-in ballots left to be counted.

Abrams has refused to concede.

“Votes remain to be counted. Voices waiting to be heard,” she told supporters early Wednesday morning. “We are going to make sure that every vote is counted because in a civilized nation, the machinery of democracy should work everywhere for everyone.”

Gillum and Abrams were hoping to become the first African-American governor in their respective states and end 20-year droughts in the governor’s office.

In addition to victories in Florida and Georgia, Republican governors were re-elected in Texas, Arkansas, Alabama and South Carolina, and GOP candidates kept open seats in Tennessee and Oklahoma.

Of the seven U.S. Southern Senate races, Republicans won four and the Democrats two, with one race in Mississippi heading to a November runoff, which amounts to a net gain of one seat for the GOP.

Beto O’Rourke

Ted Cruz

The most high-profile race was in Texas, where Democratic U.S. Senator Beto O’Rourke ran a spirited race to try to oust Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. But in the end, Cruz won 51 percent of the vote to 48 percent for O’Rourke.

In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott defeated Nelson, who was trying for his fourth term. Scott’s win means that Florida will have two Republican senators for the first time in 100 years.

Republicans also defended a seat in Mississippi, where U.S. Senator Roger Wicker won easily, and in Tennessee, where Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn defeated Democratic former Governor Phil Bredesen by an surprisingly large 55 percent to 44 percent margin.

In Virginia, Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Kaine won 57 percent to 41 percent for Republican Corey Stewart.

In a special election in Mississippi to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, Cochran’s temporary replacement in the Senate, advanced to a November 27 runoff against Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman who served as agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration.

Hyde-Smith and Smith both came in at 41 percent,short of the majority they needed to avoid a runoff. Republican State Senator Chris McDaniel came in third at 17 percent.

In the U.S. House races, the most high-profile casualty was 11-term Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, who lost his Dallas-area House seat to Colin Allred, an attorney and former NFL player.

 

Comstock

Brat

Other Republican U.S. House losers were Dave Brat in the suburbs of Richmond; John Culberson in Houston; Barbara Comstock in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.; Carols Curbelo in Miami; and Scott Taylor, in the Hampton Roads area of southeastern Virginia.

In Miami, Democrat Donna Shalala, who served as health secretary in Bill Clinton’s administration, won an open seat that had been held for 30 years by retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Two of the night’s biggest surprises came in Oklahoma City, where Republican Steve Russell was defeated by Democratic newcomer Kendra Horn, and in the Low Country of South Carolina, Democrat Joe Cunningham held a slender lead over Republican State Rep. Katie Arrington, who had ousted the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, in the Republican primary.

Arrington

Cunningham

Republican incumbent Rob Woodall led by 4,000 votes in the Atlanta suburbs, and in the Charlotte area, Republican Mark Harris held a small lead over Democrat Dan McCready.

The news was not as good for Karen Handel in suburban Atlanta, who trailed her Democratic challenger, Lucy McBath, by 2,100 votes after all of the precincts had reported.

Handel won that seat just last year in a special election that became the most expensive House race in U.S. history, in which more than $50 million was spent.

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U.S. Rep. Martha Roby survives GOP primary runoff in Alabama

Trump endorsement helps Roby overcome backlash for her criticism of him during 2016 campaign

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPoitics.com editor

MONTGOMERY (CFP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Martha Roby has easily survived a Republican runoff in her southeast Alabama district, overcoming a backlash over her critical comments of then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 that threatened to bounce her out of Washington.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama

Roby took 68 percent in the July 17 runoff to 32 percent for Bobby Bright, a former Montgomery mayor who held the 2nd District seat as a Democrat before losing it to Roby in 2010. He switched to the GOP earlier this year to challenge her in the primary.

Roby will now face Democrat Tabitha Isner, a business analyst and pastor’s wife from Montgomery. Roby will be a prohibitive favorite in the heavily Republican district, which takes in much of Montgomery and its northern suburbs, along with the Wiregrass Country in the southeastern corner of the state.

In the first round of primary voting in June, Roby took just 39 percent of the vote, which was seen as a rebuke to Roby by Trump voters, who have been furious over her decision in October 2016 to rescind her endorsement of him after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which Trump bragged about sexually accosting women.

At the time, Roby said she would not vote for Trump because his “behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president.”

However, she has since tempered her criticism of the president, and he gave her a coveted tweeted presidential endorsement ahead of the runoff, in which he pointedly noted that Bright was “a recent Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat.”

Roby’s survival contrasts with the fate of another House member critical of Trump — U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina — who lost his primary in June. In that race, Trump endorsed his opponent, State Rep. Katie Arrington, on election day.

Roby, 41, is seeking her fifth term in Congress.

South Carolina congressional candidate Katie Arrington seriously injured in car wreck

Accident comes 10 days after Arrington toppled U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford in GOP primary

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPoitics.com editor

CHARLESTON (CFP) — State Rep. Katie Arrington, the Republican nominee in South Carolina’s 1st U.S. House District, was seriously injured in a car accident Friday night that left one person dead and another critically injured.

State Rep. Katie Arrington, R-South Carolina

According to messages posted on Arrington’s Twitter feed, she was a passenger in a car that was struck by a wrong way driver on U.S. 17 south of Charleston.

The driver of the other car was killed; the driver of the car in which Arrington was driving, Jacqueline Goff, a friend of Arrington’s from Louisiana, was reported in critical condition by the Post and Courier of Charleston.

Arrington was on her way to Hilton Head Island where she was to have received an award from a state medical organization Saturday morning.

Arrington suffered a broken back, several broken ribs and underwent surgery to remove a portion of her small intestine and colon, according to her Twitter feed. She also had a stent placed in the main artery in one of her legs that had collapsed.

Additional surgeries will be required, and Arrington is expected to be hospitalized for two weeks at Medical University Hospital in Charleston.

Arrington’s Democratic opponent, Joe Cunningham, announced he was suspending his campaign “until further notice.” He asked his Twitter followers to lift “her and her family up in prayer.”

Just 10 days before the accident, Arrington, 47, from Summerville, won the 1st District nomination by defeating incumbent U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford. The race drew national attention because Sanford had been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, who endorsed Arrington on election day.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted that his “thoughts and prayers are with Representative Katie Arrington of South Carolina, including all of those involved in last nights car accident, and their families.”

Sanford also extended his condolence on Twitter: “Our thoughts and prayers this morning go to Katie Arrington, her family and those involved in last night’s automobile accident.”

The 1st District includes metro Charleston and the Lowcountry along the Atlantic Coast.

South Carolina Primary: U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford defeated; McMaster, Warren advance to GOP governor’s runoff

Democrat Archie Parnell survives 5th District U.S. House primary despite spouse abuse revelations

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CHARLESTON (CFP) — U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford has become the second incumbent to go down in a primary this year, losing the GOP nomination for his Lowcountry seat after President Donald Trump tweeted a last-minute endorsement of his opponent.

In another key race in the June 12 primary, Governor Henry McMaster secured a runoff spot and will now face John Warren, a Greenville businessman and Iraq war veteran making his first run for political office.

In the 5th U.S. House District, Democrat Archie Parnell advanced to the general election, despite pleas from party leaders to get out of the race over revelations about spousal abuse from four decades ago.

And upstate, in the 4th District, where 12 Republicans were fighting for spots in the runoff, former State Senator Lee Bright from Spartanburg snagged one spot, with State Senator William Timmons from Greenville holding on to second place by a narrow margin in unofficial results.

Sanford

Arrington

In the 1st U.S. House District, which includes Charleston and the Lowcountry along the Atlantic Coast, State Rep. Katie Arrington from Summerville took 51 percent to 46 percent for Sanford, who has held the seat since 2013.

She will now face Democrat Joe Cunningham, a Charleston attorney who swept to an easy victory in the Democratic primary with 71 percent of the vote.

Sanford’s demise could be good news for Cunningham, who will now be competing in an open seat against a lesser known, more conservative candidate. He has also raised more than $500,000 in a bid to flip the 1st District seat.

Trump loomed large in the GOP primary, with Arrington taking aim at Sanford for his previous critical comments about the president. Then, on election day, Trump administered the coup de grace on his Twitter feed: “Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA. He is MIA and nothing but trouble. He is better off in Argentina.”

The final sentence is a reference to a 2009 episode in which Sanford, then governor of South Carolina, disappeared for several days after telling the media he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, while he was actually out of the country with a Argentinian woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair.

Sanford has been one of the few Republicans in Congress to speak out against Trump, calling his behavior in office “weird,” criticizing Trump’s disparagement of Haiti and countries in Africa and calling his policy of imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum “an experiment with stupidity.”

In a concession speech before supporters in Mount Pleasant, Sanford stood by the criticisms that may have cost him his job.

“It may have cost me an election, but I stand by every one of those decisions to disagree with the president because I didn’t think they would be concurrent with the promises I made when I first ran for office and for the very voices of the people of the 1st District that I represent,” he said.

Sanford had never previously been defeated in a career that stretches back to his first election to the U.S. House in 1994 and includes two terms as governor.

The only other incumbent House member to fall this year so far was North Carolina’s U.S. Robert Pittenger. However, Alabama U.S. Rep. Martha Roby was forced in a July runoff against a challenger who made an issue of her decision to rescind her endorsement of Trump after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in October 2016, in which he bragged about groping women.

Warren

McMaster

In the governor’s race, McMaster — who inherited the office last year when former Governor Nikki Haley became UN ambassador — took 45 percent of the vote to 22 percent for Warren, who edged out Catherine Templeton, a Mount Pleasant attorney who served in two state executive positions under Haley.

The winner will face State Rep. James Smith from Columbia, who won the Democratic nomination outright with 62 percent of the vote. Florence lawyer Marguerite Willis came in second with 27 percent, while Phil Noble, a Charleston business consultant who was an adviser to former President Barack Obama, came in third with 22 percent.

Democrats have not won a governor’s race in the Palmetto State in 20 years.

McMaster — the first statewide elected official to endorse President Trump in 2016 — was boosted by a tweeted endorsement from the president. Warren was the dark horse in the race, putting in more than $3 million of his own money to be financially competitive with McMaster and Templeton.

Templeton had touted her connections with Haley and campaigned against what she called a “good ol’ boy” network running South Carolina politics — a shot at McMaster, who has been in state politics for more than 20 years. But in the end, she could not hold off a charge by Warren, who cast himself as the “conservative outsider” in the race.

In the 5th District, which stretches from the Columbia suburbs north toward Charlotte, Parnell took 60 percent, surviving a Democratic primary against three little-known challengers after divorce records came to light three weeks before the primary revealing that he physically abused his first wife in the 1970s.

Norman

Parnell

Democratic leaders have urged Parnell to quit, but he has refused. He will now face Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman in November.

In a special election last year to fill the seat vacated when Mick Mulvaney became Trump’s budget director, Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs executive, shocked the political world by coming in just 2 points behind Norman in a district Trump carried by 19 points in 2016.

Based on the closeness of the special election, Parnell has raised more than $3.6 million for the rematch, putting him in the top 20 nationally among House candidates. But the abuse allegations likely extinguished any hope Democrats had of defeating Norman and flipping the seat.

Norman drew national headlines in April when he pulled out a loaded gun during a meeting with gun control advocates at a local diner. The incident came less than two months after the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Norman defended his actions, saying he was “tired of guns being demonized.”

Upstate in the 4th District, which includes Greenville and Spartanburg, Bright, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham in a GOP primary in 2014, took 25 percent to secure a runoff spot for the seat being given up by the retiring U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy.

Timmons was in second place with 19 percent, but he was only 350 votes ahead of State Rep. Dan Hamilton, also from Greenville, so news organizations did not make an immediate call for the second spot in the runoff.

Democrats in the district will also decide a runoff between Doris Lee Turner, a Greenville tax accountant, who took 29 percent, and Brandon Brown, a college administrator from Greenville, who took 28 percent.

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