MARK SANFORD DODGES A BULLET … FOR NOW
The staggering vulnerability of maverick-turned-mushy U.S. congressman Mark Sanford has the South Carolina Lowcountry buzzing about potential 2018 challengers.
Sanford should have been beaten this year, but the suddenly status quo lawmaker lucked out and drew an underfunded challenge from the left – namely a bid by fiscally liberal S.C. Rep. Jenny Horne.
Had a more ideologically-attuned, better funded candidate stepped forward … Sanford would have likely lost the seat he won three years ago in a hard-fought 2013 special election.
Still, Horne received more than 44 percent of the primary vote against Sanford – unleashing unbridled optimism among those eager to replace this ladies deodorant-wearing “love-struck mooncalf” with an authentic free market backer.
Perhaps more importantly, the race has spawned a major scandal for Sanford – notably allegations that the one-time taxpayer hero used government resources to subsidize his reelection efforts.
Who is poised to take advantage of this situation? At the moment … no one.
Catherine Templeton – a Charleston, S.C.-based labor lawyer who previously served as director of the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) – was viewed as the obvious choice to challenge Sanford in 2018. In fact she probably would have entered the race as the favorite over the incumbent.
Templeton has taken herself out of consideration for that seat, though.
“I’m absolutely not running against Mark Sanford,” Templeton told reporter Schuyler Kropf of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier over the weekend.
Specifically, Templeton told Kropf she was “talking to groups of business leaders and other policy experts on drafting goals and reforms the next governor should be pursuing” – and would announce within the next six months whether she planned on becoming a candidate.
S.C. Rep. Tommy Pope and former Democratic lieutenant governor Yancey McGill have already announced they are seeking the GOP nomination – and U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney and lieutenant governor Henry McMaster are both considered locks to run.
Others mulling bids? S.C. Senator Tom Davis, U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, S.C. Rep. Kirkman Finlay, Upstate solicitor Walt Wilkins and Columbia, S.C. businessman and political donor Bill Stern.
Alan Wilson – the state’s attorney general – is also listed as a likely candidate in mainstream media reports. Of course Wilson’s political career recently imploded due to his obstruction of an ongoing investigation into political corruption at the S.C. State House.
In our view Wilson will be lucky to keep his current job, let alone move up a rung.
Finally, there are persistent rumors that Sanford has designs on returning to the governor’s office – which he held from 2003-11. Were he to run, Sanford would have a $1 million head start on the rest of the field (that’s the amount of money left over from his 2006 reelection campaign) – however we think it would take a lot more cash than that for South Carolinians to even consider giving him another chance.