COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford on Tuesday dismissed criticism from a Republican primary challenger, saying the characterization of him as someone who would never back President Donald Trump is nothing more than election-year pandering.
In a new TV ad, South Carolina state Rep. Katie Arrington features clips of Sanford speaking critically of some of Trump’s actions as president while “#NeverTrumper Mark Sanford” appears on-screen. Arrington then says that she wants to replace Sanford in Washington and support Trump’s “bold conservative agenda.”
Sanford has never been among Trump’s strongest supporters, demurring often during the run-up to the 2016 election when asked if he’d support him as the eventual Republican nominee.
Ultimately, though, Sanford pledged to work with Trump when possible if he were elected president. In August of 2016, the congressman wrote in a New York Times op-ed that he supported Trump, but implored him to release his tax returns, saying not to do so “would hurt transparency in our democratic process.”
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Speaking with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Sanford dismissed the freshman representative’s characterization as empty criticism conjured up to score political points.
“Saying something in politics doesn’t make it true, and that’s particularly the case around election time,” Sanford told AP.
Arrington didn’t initially support Trump’s candidacy either. In a March 2016 Facebook post, she praised Mitt Romney on the night that he delivered a scathing rebuke of Trump, whom Romney called “a phony, a fraud” and someone who was “playing the members of the American public for suckers.”
“LOVE MITT ROMNEY!!!!!” Arrington wrote that night. When challenged by someone about the posting, Arrington doubled-down, writing that she “really has a problem with the moral and ethical issue of someone being president who has done nothing more than … put people down.”
In a statement to AP, Arrington said Tuesday that while she supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the 2016 GOP primary, she backed Trump after Rubio departed the race and “proudly” attended Trump’s inauguration. Arrington also said she stood by her characterization of Sanford, pointing out several times he opposed legislation that had been supported by the president.
According to a Five-Thirty-Eight analysis of Sanford’s congressional votes, the three-term Republican votes in line with Trump’s position more than 73 percent of the time.
Sanford faces Arrington and Dimitri Cherny in the June 12 GOP primary. Democrats Joe Cunningham and Toby Smith are vying for their party’s nomination.
Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Read more of her work at https://apnews.com/search/meg%20kinnard.