For the first time since 2002, Mark Sanford finds himself in a political fist fight.
Only this time, he’s not a fresh-faced ideologue defending principled votes … he is a career politician carrying a record replete with hypocrisy, as his opponent in next week’s “Republican” primary for the state’s first congressional district (map) repeatedly made clear during a recent debate.
Katie Arrington has been running an effective contrast campaign against the #NeverTrump incumbent for months now – and she recently stepped up her game with some well-delivered jabs targeting his most glaring vulnerabilities.
Polls show a tightening race, as evidenced by the fact Sanford has been forced to belatedly tap into his war chest to run television ads defending himself (or attempting to, anyway) while attacking Arrington on her positions.
Against this backdrop, Arrington and Sanford met face-to-face recently on the U.S.S. Yorktown for a debate that left the incumbent further battered.
The debate could have easily been a big win for Sanford, but once again – it’s been a long time since he has been in a scrape.
When Sanford attempted to hit the first-term state lawmaker for her support of a recent gasoline tax increase, she fired back with a damning indictment of his record as governor of South Carolina.
Calling Sanford the “captain of neglect,” Arrington walked through the deplorable state of South Carolina’s roads and bridges during his two terms in office – including a report which showed the Palmetto State ranking among the bottom three states in America in terms of maintenance on structurally deficient bridges.
Obviously a ton of money has been thrown at the problem since Sanford left office – more than enough, in our opinion. This is why our news site stridently opposed a 2016 borrowing bill for roads as well as the 2017 gas tax hike. In fact our founding editor Will Folks is currently suing to overturn the gas tax.
But none of that changes Sanford’s abysmal infrastructure record … which has given Arrington a nifty hook with which to defend her controversial vote.
So, we will call that exchange a draw …
Other exchanges during the debate, though, created potentially lasting damage for Sanford as this race hits its homestretch.
Chief among them? His ostensibly “pro-life” position.
To be fair, the first iteration of Mark Sanford was never a Bible thumper. He only became a Bible thumper when he needed forgiveness for his taxpayer-funded extra-martial dalliances. And of course who can forget Sanford invoking Jesus to help him explain why he voted for fiscally liberal former U.S. speaker of the House John Boehner.
Yeah … pathetic.
Jesus or not … Sanford has always been a libertarian, though. Right?
During the debate with Arrington, Sanford offered up a doozy of a line regarding the right to life (a.k.a. the indispensable liberty).
“It’s a difficult issue, period,” Sanford said.
Wait … what?
Actually, it’s not a difficult issue … especially if you claim to be a libertarian. It’s a remarkably simple issue.
Which is exactly how Arrington fired back at Sanford after his unforced error on this hot-button issue.
“I am 100 percent, unequivocally pro-life,” Arrington said.
Punch landed …
Sanford also opened himself up to trouble with GOP primary voters over his assessment of the Islamic Republic of Iran – saying he did not believe a “nuclear Iran” represented an “existential threat to the United States.”
On this issue we actually agree with Sanford. Our news site has consistently argued that Iran is Israel’s problem, not ours. And that Israel should handle its business using its own money, not continuing to dip into the pockets of American taxpayers.
Of course our view is inconsistent with the view of most “Republican” voters, who will no doubt see Sanford’s remarks about Iran in a different light.
Bottom line? This race is much closer than anyone (especially Sanford) imagined it would be … with Democrats desperately hoping the scandal-scarred “Luv Gov” holds on.
Will he? Stay tuned …
WANNA SOUND OFF?
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Banner: Katie Arrington for Congress