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Republican presidential candidate and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford held a press conference on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, at Alhambra Hall in Mount Pleasant. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

Republican Mark Sanford will use the $1.3 million left in his congressional campaign account to challenge President Donald Trump for the White House, new federal election filings show.

The "Sanford for Congress" committee filed an amendment with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday noting its candidate is now seeking the presidency.

Sanford, a former South Carolina governor and congressman, told The Post and Courier he will soon file his statement of candidacy — the second piece of federal paperwork he needs to make his GOP presidential campaign official. 

Funneling federal campaign dollars from one race to another is common and legal. When Lindsey Graham ran for U.S. Senate in 2003, he converted funds from his previous congressional races into dollars for his Senate bid.

Presidential candidates have done it, too.

The two other Republicans challenging Trump — former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh — have already filed with the FEC.

The latest filings show Weld has $299,225 cash on hand but $225,457 in debts.

Walsh, who announced his candidacy after the latest round of quarterly campaign filings on Aug. 25, reports no dollars raised.

All three are dwarfed by Trump's fundraising figures. Campaign finance records show Trump had $56.7 million in cash after the first six months of 2019.

The next time presidential candidates must report their campaign dollars will be Oct. 15.

Sanford would not say how much he has raised since announcing his candidacy. The 59-year-old acknowledged the financial challenge associated with running his long-shot GOP challenge against a sitting president.

"You just can't get around it," Sanford said. "You're not going to be able to raise serious amounts of money against an incumbent president."

Campaign dollars are often used as a data point to measure the health of a campaign, but Sanford bristled at the idea of his numbers being used as an indicator of how his message is resonating with voters this go-round.

"Let's not build expectations," Sanford said, calling his campaign "a grassroots and guerrilla effort."

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Later this week, Sanford will be taking his campaign on the road to New Hampshire, where he will spend three days campaigning. The Thursday through Saturday swing will be his first visit to the nation's first primary state since announcing his presidential ambition.

It is also his second trip to the state in as many months. Sanford traveled to the Granite State in August while he was still determining whether to run for president.

Sarah Allred, a spokeswoman for Sanford's campaign, said stops for Sanford's New Hampshire visit are still being finalized.

"I wouldn't say there's a limit to the audience he's trying to reach," Allred said. "He's trying to reach New Hampshire voters as a whole."

Sanford's 2020 campaign is focused on fiscal issues, namely the nation's rising debt and government spending.

Sanford has also said his campaign is meant to force a national dialogue about what it means to be a Republican. Most recently, Sanford has criticized states who have decided not to hold Republican presidential primaries, including South Carolina.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.