Former SC Governor, Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), surprised the political world with his announcement that he would seek his former Congressional seat in this Spring’s special election. The Charleston-based seat is vacant due to the resignation of Rep. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) who was appointed by Gov. Haley to fill the term of Sen. Jim DeMint, who resigned his seat to take the helm of the Heritage Foundation. Sanford’s return to Congress could provide the GOP with the resolve it needs as the nation’s debt debate unfolds.
Breitbart News spoke with Mark Sanford about his decision to return to politics and the campaign trail. He said there were three factors driving his decision. He said when it was clear there would be a vacancy “a lot of people started calling me and telling me ‘you really have to do this. You were talking about the deficit and the debt twenty years ago when others weren’t.'”
Indeed, after Sanford was elected to Congress in 1994, he was one of the original deficit hawks. He would often use his time on the House floor to warn that the nation’s budget was on an unsustainable path. To almost any group that would listen, Sanford cautioned about the unfunded liabilities of entitlement programs, at a time that the retirement of baby boomers seemed far off in the future. Now that that day is here, his warnings are especially prescient.
Sanford said these calls sparked a “gut check.” He told Breitbart News, “I really care about these issues. We have a situation where 1 out of every 4 dollars of the economy is controlled by 535 [members of Congress].” Sanford said that our failure to solve the budget crisis will have “wrenching consequences.” “Government robs the middle class,” Sanford stressed. Deficit spending is now robbing future generations, he noted.
The central factor in his decision, however, was his belief that the nation is “at a tipping point as a civilization.” Sanford spoke extensively about the “lifecycle of civilizations.” He compared our budget and debt crisis to the waning days of Rome and the British Empire. Sanford stressed that there is still time to solve our fiscal challenges but that, “yes, the window is closing.”
“You have to have the battle,” Sanford said. “But, you also have to educate the public.” Sanford observed that the grass roots energy from 2009-10 had “dissipated a little bit. People were hopeful. People have become discouraged.”
There is “a great level of economic angst. The sustainability of the American dream is in question,” Sanford said. He noted there was some “brand disillusion” with the Republican party. They “lost their way. There was some time in the wilderness,” he said. He thinks the Republican party needs to embrace again its conservative principles.
Sanford is under no illusions about the campaign ahead. “I failed miserably in my personal life,” he admitted. While he filled out his final term as Governor, it was a messy close to what had been a successful political career. South Carolina elections, especially in the GOP primary, are notoriously nasty affairs. More than a dozen candidates are likely to make the run for the vacant Congressional seat. Sanford begins the race as the front-runner, so he can expect a lot of fire from the other campaigns. Voters will determine whether his stellar public record on the most important issue of the day outweighs his personal transgressions.
Reflecting on his time as Governor, Sanford said he “knows the loneliness of command.” His time in the Executive Branch has given him a better understanding of how to cut and reform programs. He has seen first-hand how “states have gamed the Medicaid program,” for example. He feels even better prepared to tackle our fiscal challenges.
The primary election is March 19th. The top two vote-getters will then face-off in a primary April 2nd. With such a crowded field, it is unlikely any candidate will receive the 50% threshold needed to avoid a run-off. The winner of the run-off will then face the Democrat nominee on May 7th. The district has a heavy Republican tilt, effectively making the winner of the run-off the next Congressman.
Sanford admitted to some trepidation about the campaign ahead. But, these are eclipsed by the challenges we face.
The nation would look very different if lawmakers had listened to Sanford twenty years ago. He is uniquely positioned to take a leading role in navigating a solution to our fiscal crisis. In public life, he never strayed from his core conservative principles of individual liberty and limited government. He was not as successful in his personal life.
In many respects, Mark Sanford’s career has been built for this moment. It’s in the hands of voters to decide whether he will be called up for duty again.