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Mark Sanford’s career has been defined by reinvention.
During his second term as governor, the South Carolina Republican disappeared for nearly a week. While he told his staffers he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, Sanford had actually gone to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to visit his mistress.
The ensuing scandal and resulting vote of censure by a South Carolina House committee ended Sanford’s marriage — but not his political career. He was reelected to serve South Carolina’s first district in a 2013 special election, extolling the philosophies of Buddhism along the way.
Without an endorsement from President Donald Trump, Sanford lost his House race in 2018 and was replaced by Democrat Joe Cunningham. The former congressman is now one of three Republicans on a quixotic mission to unseat the current president.
Here is where Sanford stands on key issues in the 2020 presidential election.
In a video announcing his candidacy, Sanford said that the United States is “headed toward the most predictable financial crisis in the history of our country,” and noted that he intends to focus much of his campaign for president on spending and debt.
Sanford’s campaign website states that “deficit spending in times of peace and prosperity” is unfair to future generations that will have to foot the bill.
“The president…has a familiarity and comfort level with debt that I think is ultimately leading us in the wrong direction,” Sanford told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday, citing the passage of a recent budget bill that will add $2 trillion to the national debt.
Government spending is not a new issue for Sanford. He once released a pair of pigs at the South Carolina State House to protest overspending on “pork” in the state budget.
Sanford co-sponsored a bill with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul in 2017 that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act and replaced it with private health care options. In an op-ed for the Post and Courier, Sanford wrote that the bill represented “an earnest, if rushed, attempt to protect people with pre-existing conditions while at the same time helping people who have seen dramatic increases in their insurance costs.”
The South Carolina politician still stands by the plan, which he writes would give people “the health insurance they [need], rather than the health insurance the government prescribed.”
Sanford supports the construction of a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Before he lost the GOP nomination for his congressional seat, Sanford ran ads in support of a “secure border,” telling reporters that he held the idea “long before Trump became president and elevated the issue.”
The presidential candidate recently told Iowa Public Television that he wants to go back to “common sense” when it comes to immigration policy, putting pressure, for example, on employers to use tools like E-Verify to make sure that their workers are in the country legally.
“I do think it makes sense to have a secure wall,” he said. “The idea of a thousand people walking across your border is to make a mockery of the notion of rule of law.”
Sanford is anti-abortion and has supported controversial measures, such as a 2007 bill that would have required women to view an ultrasound image of their fetus before terminating a pregnancy.
He supported similar laws throughout his time in Congress, such as a 2015 bill that would have given equal protection to the lives of unborn children, and a 1999 measure that would have forbid minors from receiving transportation to an abortion procedure.
The politician has no statements dedicated to the issue on his campaign website.
Sanford has been an outspoken critic of the escalating trade war with China, and believes the Trump administration’s “increasing talks of tariffs…are undermining our standing in the world.”
Speaking recently on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Sanford said that trade and free trade used to be a “linchpin” for the Republican Party, suggesting that as president he’d seek to repair economic ties with major partners such as China, rather than continuing Trump’s tit-for-tat measures.
He has called American intervention in foreign wars “catastrophic” and does not support meddling in other countries’ affairs.
“I’ve seen first hand rising sea levels over the course of my life,” as salt flats replaced pine trees, Sanford states on his campaign website. He was part of a group of House Republicans that put forth a resolution in 2017 urging their fellow members to take the issue seriously.
“There’s a larger debate on what to do about it, and that’s a much more complex debate, but it’s like with Alcoholics Anonymous, if you don’t even recognize the fact that you have a problem, you’re never going to address the problem,” the congressman told reporters at the time.
But the candidate doesn’t believe that the U.S. should enter into international agreements that may give unfair treatment to other countries with high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, such as India and China. For example, Sanford does not support the Kyoto Protocol.
Courtney Vinopal is a general assignment reporter at the PBS NewsHour.
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