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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.
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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Nearly two dozen candidates for Democratic nomination speak at marathon session of state party
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — The Democratic Party’s vast field of 2020 White House hopefuls turned up in South Carolina Saturday, jockeying for political position in the first-in-the-South primary state.
Over the course of nearly nine hours, a parade of 23 candidates spoke to delegates at the South Carolina Democratic Party’s annual convention, as party leaders interspersed business with eight-minute pitches from contenders — major, minor and obscure.
“It is the price we pay for all of these people wanting to see you,” quipped Trav Robertson, the state party chair.
During his speech, former Vice President Joe Biden — who held a 20-point lead over the rest of the field in the Palmetto State in a recent poll by Post and Courier newspaper — did not address his controversial remarks about being able to work with segregationist senators, which drew sharp criticism from his Democratic rivals.
He did, however, go directly after President Donald Trump, saying it was “imperative” to defeat him in 2020.
“You all know in your bones this election is more important than any other election you’ve been involved in,” Biden said. “Four more years of Donald Trump will permanently change the character of this country.”
In her remarks, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who was in second place behind Biden in the Post and Courier poll, offered a litany of specific policy proposals, saying “people across this country understand its time for big structural change. The time for small ideas is over.”
The centerpiece of the program she outlined is a 2 percent increase on income tax for the wealthiest Americans to fund universal childcare and pre-K and tuition-free college tuition.
South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s appearance in Columbia marked a return to the campaign trail after he returned home to deal with the fallout after a black man was shot by a police officer.
“We already know why such deep wounds are surfacing, why our whole community hurts,” Buttigieg said. “My community is full of people who believe in safety and justice. We will heal, and we will become stronger in the broken places.”
Buttigieg, who placed third behind Biden and Warren in the Post and Courier poll, said Democrats “need a new generation of leadership” to draw a contrast with Trump.
“We are not going to win by going on the president’s show,” he said. “Are you ready to stand with me and change the channel?”
O’Rourke, who eschewed the podium and gave his speech on the floor amid a scrum of delegates and photographers, offered blistering criticism of the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“There are children sleeping on cold concrete floors with aluminum foil for blankets, in the worst, most inhumane conditions,” O’Rouke said. “That cannot be us. That cannot be America. But for as long as this man is in office, it will be.”
Castro made a call for police reform, rattling off a list of African Americans and Latinos who died at the hands of police.
“They deserve justice too,” said Castro, who said if he’s elected, “we won’t have any second-class citizens in the United States.”
In his remarks, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont pushed back on comments made earlier in the week at a gathering of party centrists that the self-described Democratic socialist presents “an existential threat” to the party.
“Why am I an existential threat? Maybe it’s because I will take on the insurance companies and the drug companies and pass a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program,” Sanders said. “Maybe it’s because we’re going to break up the major banks on Wall Street … Maybe it’s because we’re going to take on the fossil fuel industry.”
Sanders has been running second to Biden in most national polls, but he has been trying to regain his footing in South Carolina, where his support has dropped to just 9 percent in the latest Post and Courier poll, putting him in fourth place.
The day of speeches kicked off with U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California, who criticized what she called Trump’s “rap sheet” in pushing tax cuts, tariffs and embracing “dictators” around the world.
“Let’s prosecute that case, and let’s not turn back the clock,” she said. “Let’s start the next chapter.”
Klobuchar highlighted her working class background and called for an “optimistic economic agenda” that works for all parts of the country.
“I don’t come from money. I have grit. And I got into politics for a reason,” Klobuchar said. “I know how to win.”
Booker said Democrats can’t be satisfied with just beating Trump but must embrace “bold dreams.”
“Beating Donald Trump gets us out of the valley, but it doesn’t get us to the mountaintop,” he said. “He wants to make this election about hate; we need to make this election about love. He wants to make this election about tearing people down; we need to make this election about building people up.”
South Carolina’s 2020 presidential primary, scheduled for Feb. 29, will be the fourth contest, after Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. It will be the first test of candidates’ appeal in the South and among African Americans, who make up a majority of Democratic voters in the state.
The Post and Courier’s latest poll found Biden was the choice of 37 percent of likely primary voters, bolstered by his strong support among black voters, among whom he tops 50 percent.
Warren was followed at 17 percent and Buttigieg at 11 percent. None of the other candidates were in double digits.
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Former state Democratic Party chair hits Graham for his about-face on Donald Trump
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Former South Carolina Democratic chair Jaime Harrison has entered the state’s 2020 U.S. Senate race with a pledge to bring “the spirit of helping” back to politics — and withering criticism of incumbent Lindsey Graham for his about-face embrace of Donald Trump.
Harrison, 43, a Columbia lawyer who serves as associate chair of the Democratic National Committee, unveiled his bid May 28 on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” where he called Graham “a political windsock” who over the last two years has gone from Trump critic to Trump booster.
“I used to think that this was a guy who was a statesman, a guy who could stand above the fray and help solve the issues,” Harrison said. “He’s a chameleon who has changed his colors.”
Although South Carolina hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1998, Harrison said he believes the party “is on the verge of a renaissance in the South,” pointing to recent gubernatorial races in Georgia and Florida, in which African American Democrats narrowly lost, and the party’s pickup of a U.S. House seat in the Palmetto State in 2018.
Harrison, a former aide to House Minority Whip Jim Clyburn, was the first African American elected to chair the state party in 2013. After four years in that role, he ran unsuccessfully for national DNC chair and was appointed as an associate chairman after Tom Perez won the position.
In an announcement video posted to his campaign website, Harrison contrasts Graham’s assessment of Trump during the 2016 campaign as a “kook,” “crazy” and a “race baiting, xenophobic religious bigot” with later comments that Graham is “all in” with Trump and the president “deserves the Nobel Peace Prize and then some.”
In the video, Harrison calls Graham “a guy who will say anything to stay in office.”
“Lindsey Graham can’t lead us in any direction because he has traded his moral compass for petty political gain,” Harrison said.
The Graham campaign didn’t immediately fire back. But the state GOP chair, Drew McKissick accused Democrats in a statement of “attacking Senator Graham for standing up for conservative values and refusing to give in to the liberal smear campaign against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.”
He said Harrison and the other Democrat in the race, Gloria Tinubu, “hope to extract revenge by rallying liberals across America to their cause, but they are going to learn the hard way that South Carolinians appreciate the leadership that Lindsey Graham has brought to the issues they care about.”
Tinubu, an economics professor and former state legislator in Georgia, announced her candidacy in April.
Graham, 63, is seeking a fourth term in 2020. He has posted double-digit wins in all three of his previous campaigns.