Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford tells Newsmax TV that he is running for the U.S. House of Representatives because “if we don’t get this spending mess right in Washington, there are going to be damning consequences.”
“There are going to be damning consequences in terms of the value of the dollar, damning consequences in terms of the opportunity that is vital to the American Dream — and damning consequences in terms of people’s ability to make a living here in this country,” Sanford, the three-term Republican congressman and two-term South Carolina governor, tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview.
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Sanford was a rising political star in the Republican Party, first making headlines in 2009 when he became the first governor to turn down President Obama’s stimulus funds, before literally vanishing from the state later that year.
Reporters were told he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but when he reappeared, Sanford admitted to being in Argentina with a woman whom he later married after a divorce.
Meanwhile, an ad hoc committee of the South Carolina legislature voted to censure but not impeach Sanford — and he served out his term. He later became a political commentator for Fox News during the 2012 presidential election.
Sanford, 52, faces a March 19 GOP primary for the seat held by Tim Scott, who was appointed last month to the Senate slot held by Jim DeMint. He is expected to face a runoff election on April 1.
“I thought that my time in public office was over,” Sanford tells Newsmax. “I thought I hung up the spurs on that front. But what happened was a rather miraculous turn of events. You had a United States senator resign, the governor appointed the guy who held the congressional seat I held many years ago — and then the phone lights lit up.
“Initially, you’re like, 'That’s very flattering but no thank you' because you’re scared. But the phones kept ringing. The phones kept ringing — so I went ahead and, ultimately, decided I’m going to give this a go.
“I do have the wounds that we’re all aware of,” Sanford added, “but I also have 20 years of trying to push for limited government at a rather remarkable level.”
Sanford noted his top rankings from such conservative organizations as the National Taxpayers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste, and the CATO Institute.
And he plans to continue his fiscal conservative agenda should he be returned to Washington.
For instance, Sanford is troubled that Republican House members agreed earlier this month to suspend the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling until May.
“They’re between a rock and a hard place — and it’s very difficult to try and govern from one branch of government,” Sanford said. “There are three branches out there. You’ve got limited mechanical leverage as a House relative to the White House and the Senate.
“My frustration, along with many other conservatives, is that it just seems that we keep kicking the can on this thing. We thought we had a deal a year ago, because we said there’d be automatic sequestration if we didn’t deal with it. Well, we didn’t deal with it.
“Now, we’re kicking down the can for another couple of months. It’s just one series of resets which, ultimately, is problematic in dealing with the numbers that continue to grow before us as the debt rises by about $10 million a minute.”
He’s also circumspect on how the GOP plans to handle the upcoming sequestration talks.
“You get the first round on that front, $69 million, which is relatively insignificant relative to the size of the whole budget, but an important first step. That will come up in March. So their belief is when those cuts are looming, maybe they’ll have a little bit more leverage with the Senate and the White House. We’ll see.”
Sanford would not support any measures to limit gun access, including universal background checks.
“I don’t understand why that should be a process where the federal government inserts itself. The reality is that criminals are certainly not going to be taking part of that process.”
Neither would he back the immigration-reform plan introduced by the “Gang of Eight” senators — four Republicans and four Democrats — on Capitol Hill earlier this week.
“You’d want to tighten up exactly what securing borders means,” Sanford tells Newsmax. “There’s just a lot of loose language in there in the present form that doesn’t exactly define what it means to trigger this march towards citizenship. It needs a little bit more work before I’d be willing to support it.”
Perhaps the one thing that’s keeping Sanford very busy right now is organizing his House campaign.
“We’re in this sprint where you’re trying to begin the process of raising money, you’re trying to put together a campaign team, you’re trying to get a website up — and you’re trying to move around the district. It’s still a work in progress.”
He then added, somewhat jokingly, “I guess we need to end this interview, because I need to get back on the phone and try and start raising some money.”
Still, the years out the public eye have given Sanford much time for reflection — and that has steeled his resolve for this House race, he said.
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