CONWAY — No one is talking about the deficit.
That was one of the key reasons why former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford decided to throw his hat in the ring and challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020.
Although the odds are long at the moment, Sanford is bringing attention to the national debt, which stood just shy of $23 trillion as of Tuesday.
Sanford, 59, has made nine visits to the Granite State over the past year, and he plans to spend much of November in the state campaigning.
He will be in the Mount Washington Valley this Friday with at least three planned stops. In the morning, he hopes to talk with students at Kennett High School, followed by visiting the Gibson Center for Senior Services in North Conway at 11:15 a.m. He will then attend an editorial board at the Sun at 12:30 p.m.
Sanford served in Congress from 1995-2001 and 2013-19, and was governor of South Carolina from 2003-11. He announced his run for the GOP nomination on Sept. 8 on Fox News.
“(Trump is) not delivering on what he said he was going to do, which is eliminate the debt,” Sanford said in his announcement. “In fact, it has gone in the opposite direction.
Until recently, Sanford had been a teaching fellow at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.
Now he joins former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh in seeking the GOP nomination, along with Trump.
Trump has referred to the trio on Twitter as “the Three Stooges.”
Prior to coming to Conway, Sanford is scheduled to spend Wednesday on a walkabout in Manchester in the morning, and then meet with UNH College Republicans in Durham at 6 p.m.
“The purpose of this campaign is to spark a needed conversation as Republicans on what it means to be a Republican,” he states on his campaign website.
“We focus on spending, debt and deficits because our present course leads to financial disaster, jobs lost and grave injury to the American dream. Our debt is a clear and present danger to our republic."
Sanford considers himself a conservative, which means "maximizing individual freedom, personal autonomy and allowing discretion in one’s own pursuit of happiness are building blocks to getting there. Sustaining it rests on a political system that should afford all of us rising levels of opportunity based on our own talents and work ethic — and equity and fairness in getting there. These two things are vital to sustaining any political or economic system across generations.”
Sanford, who has four grown sons, is familiar with the word “impeachment,” something he faced as governor in 2009, after he disappeared for a week to engage in an extramarital affair in Argentina while telling his staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.
His own website admits: “In 2009, he had a well-chronicled affair and the collapse of his 20-year marriage. He finished the governorship, but in its wake he had ‘a time in the desert’ and the chance for much in the way of reflection, repentance and renewal.
"Several years later, the people who knew him best, once again, elected him to represent them in the U.S. Congress. While making no excuses for his failure, he believes this chapter of life has given him levels of humility, empathy and purpose that make him a better person and leader.”
Despite the scandal, Sanford went on to win a seat in Congress after a special election in 2013. He lost a close primary in 2018 when Trump tweeted support for Katie Arrington, Sanford’s opponent.
With the Democrats opening up an impeachment inquiry, Sanford believes it diverts attention from more pressing national needs.
“It sucks all political conversation out the door and becomes the only issue that gets discussed,” Sanford told The Federalist on Oct. 9. “So rather than discussing the fact that our finances are in a frightful position and it’s really going to hurt every one of us … none of it gets discussed.”
According to The Federalist, Sanford said that while he generally supports the House pursuing an investigation into the president’s conduct, he stopped short of calling for Trump’s removal. “I don’t think you should prejudge the process.”
To learn more about Sanford, go to marksanford.com.