Sanford at Harris Teeter (copy) (copy)

Mark Sanford. File

In a New York Times op-ed Tuesday, departing U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford lists three reasons why Katie Arrington and the Republican Party fumbled away South Carolina's 1st Congressional District last week.

They are: the party's move away from defending the environment; the GOP losing its way on curbing spending in Washington; and the death of civility.

"As Republicans, we’ve drifted from our roots," he wrote in the more than 1,000-word commentary. "The party, in fact, has a remarkable legacy on conservation and the environment — and this race suggests we should recommit ourselves to it."

Secondly, "financial irresponsibility proved a drag," he said. "Even in a hyperpartisan world, you still need reasons for traditional conservatives like myself to show up. It’s got to be more than the blue team is bad."

Sanford continued, "One of the underpinnings of the Republican Party has long been financial responsibility, but here, again, the party has drifted. The president has done very little to trim the size of the federal government or entitlement spending, even as he asks for more money for corn farmers hit by his tariffs. That’s hardly motivating for a traditional conservative. We need to once again be the party of not just lower taxes, but less spending."

And third, "civility is important," Sanford wrote.

"The Republican Party that so many of us care deeply about continues to be held hostage these days, and what I saw last week in a district I grew up in and know well is that there is a half-life to insults, bullying and an embrace of a post-truth world," he wrote.

"I heard it from young soccer moms and longtime Republican voters alike. They don’t want to condone behavior that is counter to what they’ve taught their children," he said.

"In this district, my former opponent adopted Mr. Trump’s highly combative style. It worked in the primary, but it fell flat in the general election. Mr. Cunningham presented himself as warm and affable."

Sanford's piece comes long after he lost to eventual nominee Arrington in the June GOP primary. She went on to narrowly lose the seat last week by about 4,000 votes to Democrat Joe Cunningham.

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Their race was highly influenced by their differing stances on pursuing offshore exploration for oil and gas on the Atlantic Coast; she once supported it, he did not.

Also, their support for President Donald Trump was another clear difference: She does whole-heartedly, while he doesn't at all.

The results last week gave Democrats what previously had been considered a safe Republican seat in the coastal South that hadn't been held by a Democrat in almost 40 years.

Sanford said the numbers prove the GOP needs to examine itself going forward.

"Republicans got a wake-up call last week," he said. "But will we wake up?"

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

Political Editor

Schuyler Kropf is The Post and Courier political editor. He has covered every major political race in South Carolina dating to 1988, including for U.S. Senate, governorship, the Statehouse and Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.