Sanford ‘disappointed’ over state GOP decision to cancel 2020 primary

Published: Sep. 9, 2019 at 10:07 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina is one of several states across the country that will not hold a Republican presidential primary in 2020.

The decision was made on Saturday, the day before former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford made official his plans to run against President Donald Trump in 2020.

This is not the first time a presidential primary has been canceled in the Palmetto State.

SCGOP Chairman Drew McKissick said there is, as a general rule, no rationale for a party with an incumbent president in the White House to hold a primary.

South Carolina Republicans did not hold a state primary in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was in office; or in 2004, when George W. Bush was president.

South Carolina Democrats skipped primaries in 1996 during Bill Clinton’s time in the Oval Office; and again in 2012 during Barack Obama’s administration.

The vote to forego a GOP primary next year came on Saturday.

“With no legitimate primary challenger and President Trump’s record of results, the decision was made to save South Carolina taxpayers over $1.2 million and forgo an unnecessary primary,” McKissick said Saturday in a statement. “President Trump and his administration have delivered for South Carolinians, and we look forward to ensuring that Republican candidates up and down the ballot are elected in 2020.”

After news broke Sunday morning of Sanford’s longshot plan to challenge Trump, McKissick issued a new statement.

“Let’s be clear, this is about Mark Sanford looking to raise his political career from the grave, not him wanting to advance ideas,” he said. “The simple fact is that South Carolina Republicans overwhelmingly support President Trump and know this vanity project is going absolutely nowhere.”

Sanford said he was disappointed by the decision to cancel the primary.

“We have a chance every four years to have a debate as a nation on what it means to be a Democrat, what it means to be a Republican, what it means to be an American,” Sanford said. “We are going to be absent that debate that is historically important in South Carolina."

Sanford said in mid-July he would take the next 30 days to decide whether to run against Trump. But he waited until after Hurricane Dorian had passed to announce his decision.

“I am here to tell you now that I am going to get in,” Sanford said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday." When asked why he was taking on an incumbent who’s popular within the party, Sanford said, “I think we need to have a conversation on what it means to be a Republican. I think that as the Republican Party, we have lost our way.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld in challenging the president in 2020.

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