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Mark Sanford on the issues, in under 500 words

Mark Sanford addresses a crowd during a town hall meeting March 18, 2017.
Mark Sanford addresses a 2017 town hall meeting. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Editor's note: Sanford dropped out of contention for the Republican presidential nomination on Nov. 12th, 2019. Below is our original article on his candidacy.

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is one of three long-shot Republican challengers to President Trump. A longtime figure in Congress and state government, he is known as a budget hawk and fiscal reformer.

  • A frequent critic of Trump, he faults the president for steering the Republican Party away from traditional issues like the national debt and budget deficits.

Key facts:

  • Current position: N/A
  • Age: 59
  • Born: Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
  • Education: Furman University (BA), University of Virginia (MBA)
  • Date candidacy announced: Sept. 8, 2019
  • Previous roles: Representative for South Carolina’s 1st District (1995–2001; 2013–2019), U.S. Air Force Reserve (2003–2013), real estate broker, farmer
  • % of votes in line with Trump, per FiveThirtyEight: 70.8%

Stances on key issues:

  • National debt and deficits: Government spending is Sanford's greatest concern. He strongly supports reducing the national debt and balancing the budget.
  • Climate change: Though Sanford joined other House Republicans in a call for action on climate change, he also voted against bills addressing the issue, including a carbon tax, fearing the cost of implementation if an economic slowdown were to occur.
  • Marijuana: Though Sanford has not publicly announced his support for legalized marijuana, he criticized the Trump administration in 2018 for threatening to prosecute marijuana businesses that operated in states where the substance has been legalized.
  • Immigration: Sanford holds traditional Republican views on immigration. He believes in a secure border and voted for penalizing sanctuary cities. However, he said does not support family separation at the southern border.

Key criticisms of Sanford:

  • Hiking trip: As the former governor, Sanford lied about his whereabouts for 6 days in 2009. Instead of hiking the Appalachian Trail as he claimed, he later admitted he was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, having an affair with a TV reporter.
  • Extreme frugality: Sanford has been criticized for taking thriftiness too far. As South Carolina's governor, he required his staff to use both sides of Post-it notes, and attempted to refuse $700 million in federal stimulus money in 2009.
  • Running in anger: Some Republicans claim Sanford is only running because of his animosity with Trump that came to a head in South Carolina's 2018 primary elections. The president supported Sanford's conservative challenger. Sanford lost, but insists a personal grudge is not driving his campaign.

1 fun thing:

  • As governor, Sanford held squealing, wriggling pigs under each arm outside the state house chamber to criticize lawmakers for including pork-barrel projects in South Carolina’s 2004 state budget.

Go deeper: Everything you need to know about the other 2020 candidates