The Slatest

Mark Sanford Becomes Third Republican to Challenge Trump in Republican Primary

Mark Sanford waits for his introduction during a town hall meeting March 18, 2017 in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Mark Sanford waits for his introduction during a town hall meeting March 18, 2017 in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Former Rep. Mark Sanford made it official Sunday, announcing he will pursue a longshot primary challenge against President Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican nomination. “I had planned to announce that back home this week. We had a hurricane come visit us on the coast of South Carolina so that sort of disrupted plans on that front,” Sanford said in an interview on Fox News Sunday. “But I am here to tell you now, that I am going to get in.”

When host Chris Wallace asked him why he was running, Sanford said It had to do with the Republican Party as a whole. “I think we need to have a conversation on what it means to be a Republican,” he said. “I think that as a Republican Party, we have lost our way, and I’d say so on a couple of different fronts. I’d say first and sort of the epicenter of where I’m coming from is that we have lost our way on debt and deficits and spending.” When Wallace pointed out that Sanford basically had no shot of winning, Sanford said pundits used to say that about the man who is now at the White House. “You never know,” he said. “I’m listing my goals, my primary goal is to say let’s go out and force or try and create a conversation on that which is not being talked about in this presidential cycle.”

Sanford, who represented South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District from 1995 to 2001 and 2013 to 2019, was also the state’s governor from 2003 to 2011. He lost his primary race last year as he failed to find support as a Trump critic. But Sanford is best known not for what he did in office, but for the two words “Appalachian Trail.” In 2009, the then-governor claimed he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was actually in Argentina having an extramarital affair.

Sanford is now the third Republican to officially launch a primary challenge against Trump after former Rep. Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. And his announcement wasn’t exactly a surprise. In mid-July he told the Post and Courier of Charleston that he was considering whether to run. Sanford said he has been contemplating the challenge since leaving Congress in January and his candidacy was so expected that Trump had already listed him among the “three stooges” who wanted to challenge him in the primary. “I’m at 94% approval in the Republican Party, and have Three Stooges running against me,” Trump tweeted last month. “One is ‘Mr. Appalachian Trail’ who was actually in Argentina for bad reasons.”