Rep. Mark Sanford is facing defeat in South Carolina’s Republican primary on June 12.
That's especially noteworthy because just six years ago he pulled off one of the most unlikely comebacks in political history — winning a U.S. House seat not long after an extramarital affair blackened his term as governor of South Carolina.
A Momentum National poll among likely GOP voters in the 1st District (Charleston) showed Sanford, 58, eking out a lead of 39.7 to 39 percent over pro-Trump insurgent State Rep. Katie Arrington.
If Arrington were to win the primary, she would likely be the first Republican woman elected to the U.S. House or Senate from the Palmetto State.
Arrington seized the moment and raised Sanford’s 2009 affair with Argentinian divorcee Maria Belen Chapur (when he was married with four children).
“When I see something wrong, I have to say something and fix it,” Arrington told Newsmax, “and Mark is what is wrong with Washington — career politicians who have been in office for 20 years, who haven’t accomplished anything, and just keep saying it’s horrible and it’s bad.”
In his first-ever run for office, Sanford won the 1st District House seat in 1994 and voluntarily stepped down in 2000 to comply with his public vow to serve only three terms. Two years later, he was elected governor and re-elected resoundingly in 2006.
With a bid for the White House in the planning stages, Sanford stunned family, friends and the political world with his admission he was with Chapur after reports he had disappeared from the State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion. Wife Jenny moved out of the official residence and later divorced Sanford. He and Chapur were later engaged but later ended their relationship.
A main concern for Arrington and fellow 1st District Republicans who support Trump is Sanford’s actions toward the president. A “Never Trumper” in 2016, he has appeared numerous times on CNN speaking out against President Trump, and has voted against Trump-backed legislation — including funding for the proposed border wall.
“It’s one thing to say no, and have a different solution,” Arrington told me. “But Mark has never been able to come up with any solution. He just says no.”
Asked about other issues on which she disagrees with the incumbent, Arrington pointed to a lack of funding for new infrastructure in South Carolina — even though Sanford sits on the Committee of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Arrington, 47, is not pure in her conservative record. Sanford backers point out that in 2016, she was highly critical of Trump for his public criticism of 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Last year, she upset fiscal conservatives by supporting legislation that would raise the state’s gasoline tax by 2 cents per gallon.
The insurgent candidate has increasingly connected with young conservatives who happen to be women. Among them was Emily Rybak, a conservative student leader at College of Charleston. While Emily only lives in the district during the school year, she believes Arrington is a fresh face who will bring policy changes to benefit the area.
“While living there for the year and talking to people about their politics, I got the impression Sanford was frequently absent from home,” Rybak said.
“But Katie has actively traveled, been involved, and personally knocking on doors to reassure constituents of the tireless effort she will put in to make District One better for everyone,” Rybak told me. “Katie connects with people on a level that is so amazing, I have never seen anything like it before.”
Since the Republican Party began winning U.S. House seats from South Carolina in 1965, only one Republican House member has been rejected by his own party — Bob Inglis, who increasingly moved to left, and was trounced for renomination in 2010 by present Rep. Trey Gowdy. Whether Mark Sanford become the second GOP incumbent from South Carolina to be doomed depends on whether young backers such as Emily Rybak turn out for heroine Arrington.
(Kimberly Burton, an incoming junior at Temple University (PA), is a summer intern at the Washington, D.C., bureau of Newsmax).
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