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Fmr. Rep. Mark Sanford: 7 things you need to know about the Republican challenging President Trump

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By Roey Hadar

Production Associate

Mark Sanford, a former congressman and governor of South Carolina, announced his run for the Republican presidential nomination on September 8, becoming the third candidate to launch a primary challenge against President Donald Trump.

The 59-year-old served 12 years in Congress, separated by eight years as governor of South Carolina. Sanford was a vocal critic of President Trump in Congress and now says he is running to spark “a conversation about what it means to be a Republican,” focusing on ensuring the party prioritizes cutting the national debt, deficit and government spending.

Here are seven things you need to know about Sanford.

  • Sanford has long opposed government spending. The libertarian CATO Institute rated Sanford as the nation’s most fiscally conservative governor in a 2010 assessment. In his tenures in Congress, he received recognition from conservative groups for his votes against government spending, including sponsoring a 2018 bill to balance the budget within five years.
  • He publicly criticized President Trump's conduct, after once briefly supporting him. While in Congress, Sanford called the president’s executive order to limit Muslim immigration “reckless” and “bizarre.” He also joined House Democrats to ask that Congress be able to see President Trump’s tax returns. In his announcement of his campaign, Sanford said Trump is “leading us in the wrong direction” on debt and deficits.
  • As governor, Sanford often clashed with fellow Republicans in the state legislature over spending. He vetoed over 100 bills in his first year and a half as governor and, in a protest against "pork barrel" spending, brought live pigs to the state House chamber. Sanford also pushed to expand school voucher programs and tried to reject federal money from the 2009 stimulus bill Congress passed, ultimately accepting the money in exchange for the legislature paying down state debt.
  • In 2009, Sanford admitted to an affair with an Argentinian woman after disappearing for nearly a week. Sanford told a handful of aides he was hiking the Appalachian Trail but was then spotted returning on a flight from Argentina. Sanford confessed and resigned as chair of the Republican Governors Association. He served out the remainder of his term as governor of South Carolina, but the incident led to Sanford divorcing his wife and becoming engaged to his girlfriend. Sanford later broke off the engagement.
  • He spent nearly a decade as a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve. Sanford served in the branch from 2002 to 2011 and participated in two weeks of training while serving as South Carolina’s governor in 2003.
  • Sanford had previously been the subject of presidential and vice presidential speculation. Sanford was floated as a possible running mate for Republican nominee John McCain in 2008 and a potential Republican nominee in 2012 before his affair became public knowledge.
  • The son of a surgeon, Sanford grew up in a budget-conscious household. Despite growing up in a well-off family, Sanford and his family often slept in the same room to conserve electricity. An Eagle Scout, Sanford built a wooden coffin by hand while in college after his father died of Lou Gehrig’s disease.