Disgraced former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford officially launched his campaign to challenge President Trump for the Republican nomination for president in Philadelphia on Thursday morning.
— Justine McDaniel (@McDanielJustine) October 16, 2019
Only one local reporter showed up for the spectacle, aside from two staffers who set up a wooden podium near Independence Hall in Philadelphia – a location that even Sanford acknowledged as odd.
“Nobody knows me in Philadelphia. I get it,” Sanford told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I think in life we all do what we can do, what’s within our power to have an effect. So we’re just sort of moving along as we go along.”
Inquirer reporter Anna Orso was the only person in attendance when Sanford’s 9 a.m. press conference kicked off with the former governor toting a large check for “one trillion dollars” – a symbol of the runaway national debt he hopes to highlight.
His two aides milled about as students from Paris asked about the check. A reporter from ABC eventually showed up for a brief interview.
“No other local TV station showed up to the kickoff spot, even though Fox 29’s studio is a block away. CBS3 and NBC10’s studios are within two miles of Sanford’s news conference,” according to Orso.
After a bit, retired Center City lawyer Bill Quinn approached Sanford to let him know his daughter was one of his students at the University of Chicago, and while she’s a progressive Democrat, she admired Sanford “for his integrity,” the Inquirer reports.
The 64-year-old, also a Democrat, said he won’t be voting for Sanford, who lost re-election to Congress in 2018 after President Trump endorsed his challenger, Katie Arrington.
“He took a gun and shot me in the head,” Sanford said of Trump, “and that’s the end of that.”
Sanford earned the ax as one of the president’s most outspoken Republican critics in the House, despite support for Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump returned the criticism by mocking Sanford for his high-profile infidelity scandal while governor and campaigning against him in 2018. The support helped Arrington win the GOP primary, but she lost the seat to Democrat Joe Cunningham in the general election.
Sanford disappeared from the state for several days in June 2009 and told his staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. When he was later busted coming off a plane from Argentina, he confessed to an affair with a 43-year-old divorced mother of two in Buenos Aires.
Sanford, a father of four sons, also admitted to cheating on his wife on previous occasions. The two divorced in 2010.
Despite the scandal, Sanford avoided impeachment and completed his second term as governor. Sanford later won the South Carolina’s 1st District seat he previously held, from 1995 to 2001, during a special election in 2013. He was re-elected to that post the next year.
Sanford told the Inquirer he’s mounting another political comeback to restore integrity to the Oval Office, with “empathy and humility.”
He’s blending that message with warnings about the nation’s spiraling debt, and he’s hoping folks will ditch Trump to get America’s finances in order.
“If there’s an appetite in terms of people’s concerns on the financial realities of our country and the way in which we are at a tipping point, then there’s going to be some level of measure and movement with regard to the campaign,” he said. “And if there’s not, there won’t be. And it will be short-lived.”
Sanford’s big announcement kicked off his “coast-to-coast conversation” with stops in 11 states that he calls “Kids, We’re Bankrupt And We Don’t Even Know It.”