Former Gov. Mark Sanford formally jumped into the 1st Congressional District race Wednesday, saying he would tap into some of the more than $1.2 million in old campaign-account money he has at his disposal.
Meanwhile, Charleston County School Board member Elizabeth Moffly also has declared, bringing to 10 the number of declared candidates on the Republican side for the GOP-leaning seat.
While the field is one of the largest ever seen, Sanford’s access to cash gives him a huge and early financial advantage in a fight that’s expected to be dominated by the Charleston-area media market.
Sanford declined to identify himself as the early front-runner, other than to say he will hold to his early message of curbing spending in D.C and limited government.
“It’s a core belief and not a new-found idea,” he said during an interview.
Sanford’s recent Federal Election Commission campaign records show that from his time representing the 1st District previously, from 1995-2001, he still has around $122,000 cash on-hand. He could immediately use that money for a federal run.
Sanford also has more than $1,157,000 in his state-regulated gubernatorial campaign account. He could not use any of that money for a federal congressional bid unless he gets written permission from each donor.
“I suspect I’ll tap into some of that too,” he said.
The race is already showing signs of being expensive. Former state Sen. John Kuhn, who announced earlier, said he was putting $250,000 of his own cash in.
Sanford’s declaration comes as the dominant national story continues to be his political return after admitting to an affair with an Argentine woman during the last months of his second term as governor.
The event became a euphemism for adultery as Sanford reportedly said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, when in fact he was in South America visiting her.
The Appalachian Trial gag continues to get play this political season as a handmade “A over T” sign was hung this week inside the former Tellis pharmacy in Charleston, which Sanford was considering renting as a campaign headquarters. He instead opted for space in Mount Pleasant.
He expected it wouldn’t be the last of “many hits” he takes for his conduct, he said.
The woman, Maria Belen Chapur, is now his fiancee.
He did not know how visible she would during the campaign. “That’s up to her,” he said, adding that she is a very private person. “I’m going to respect what she wants to do.”
The two-week filing period for the 1st District race opens Friday to fill the vacancy created with Gov. Nikki Haley picked former Rep. Tim Scott to fill the vacancy created when Jim DeMint resigned from the Senate.
Moffly’s announcement is set for 11 a.m. today at 248 Magwood Lane in Mount Pleasant. She ran for state superintendent of education in 2010 and came in second to Mick Zais in the GOP nomination race. She will not step down from the board to run.