With several hundred Republicans in the room and Katie Arrington sitting a few tables away, U.S. Rep. Mark  Sanford let an opportunity to endorse her for Congress pass by.

At Thursday's Charleston County GOP reunion of retired 1st District congressmen, Sanford instead focused on why it's OK to have differences in the Republican Party after she defeated him in the June primary, effectively ending his D.C. career.

Separately, Sanford told Palmetto Politics there were lingering issues from the campaign, many of which are tied to Arrington, Donald Trump and what he called "an identity crisis of what we're about," meaning Republicans.

Will an endorsement ever come in her race against Democrat Joe Cunningham?

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Republican Congressional candidate Katie Arrington is greeted by former congressman Henry Brown during a 1st Congressional Honorees Banquet at Alhambra Hall in Mount Pleasant on Thursday, August 16, 2018. Lauren Petracca/Staff

"Not yet. I'm looking at it. It's not definitive," he said.

Still there was some joking. Sanford thanked Arrington in front of the crowd at Alhambra Hall in Mount Pleasant by saying her win gives him more time with his sons, while Arrington said she would call him to find out "where the bodies are buried."

For the rest of the senior members of the 1st District alumni squad, each had differing views of President Trump's performance, with their opinions running from disdain to full-on support.

Tommy Hartnett, 77, who served from 1981-87

"I think he's the biggest embarrassment we have and hopefully will ever have in the White House," he said.

Hartnett said anyone who serves as president must be "above" the personal attacks Trump thrives on.

"Personally, I have a strong dislike for him," Hartnett said.

Arthur Ravenel Jr., 91, 1987-95

Ravenel said he's an enthusiastic Trump supporter up and down the line.

"He's good. We like everything he's doing," he said, starting with the GOP tax cut.

And Trump's brash demeanor?

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Former Congressman Henry Brown speaks with Arthur Ravenel Jr. during a 1st Congressional Honorees Banquet at Alhambra Hall in Mount Pleasant on Thursday, August 16, 2018. Lauren Petracca/Staff

"I like that, too. That's 'Mid-American.' He speaks our language."

Henry Brown, 82, 2001-11

Brown said he likes what Trump is doing for the economy and used the analogy that a rising tide lifts all boats.

But he, too, had issues with Trump's people skills.

"I can't pick a perfect person," he said. 

Gov seeks help recruiting Social Services director

Gov. Henry McMaster is sending a message he’s making appointments based on qualifications, not friendships.  

At the first meeting Wednesday of the 16-member panel he created to help find the next Department of Social Services director, McMaster said, repeatedly, that he’s about “collaboration, cooperation and communication.”   

The advisory panel of legislators, former agency officials and children’s advocates is tasked with coming up with a list of qualifications for the next director, as guidance for a professional search agency. He’ll use a similar process for other Cabinet vacancies, too, he said afterward.

It’s a way for McMaster, who’s running for his first full term, to show he’s doing things differently than his predecessors. He also directly promised the panel’s legislators there will be no more attempts to keep them in the dark.

It’s a departure from Gov. Nikki Haley, who was criticized for choosing several buddies for top jobs, without input. Senators refused to confirm one.

At DSS, Haley was accused of picking her first director for that agency, Lillian Koller, as a political favor, then refused calls from legislators of both parties to fire her, amid intense legislative hearings involving children’s deaths. Koller resigned in 2014 ahead of a planned “no confidence” vote in the Senate.

When Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, complained DSS employees were still being stifled, McMaster quickly said, “Let me help with that right now. I hereby instruct everybody to talk to the legislators.”

“I’m serious about that, senator,” he added. “Particularly if legislators call and want facts and don’t get them, you let me know. We’ll fix it and fix it immediately.”

After the meeting, McMaster declined to say whether he was intentionally showing a shift.

“I won’t comment on what anyone else has done, but I know what works,” he said.

National Democrats increase financial support for Cunningham

Joe Cunningham, the Democrat running to represent Charleston and the Lowcountry in Washington, can place another left-leaning feather in his cap.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday added the first-time political candidate to its coveted "Red to Blue" program, a designation that the DCCC notes will bring Cunningham "strategic guidance, staff resources, candidate training, and more."

To be clear, the "more" that the DCCC is referring to here is money.

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Joe Cunningham, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Congress for South Carolina's First Congressional District speaks at his campaign office opening Wednesday, August 1, 2018. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

"Candidates have always been our greatest asset,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján said in a statement. "This next generation of Democratic leaders are energizing voters all across the country with powerful stories to share and deep records of service."

The latest designation from the fundraising arm of House Democrats could provide a national boost to Cunningham, a West Ashley construction attorney who is running against Republican Katie Arrington in the state's coastal 1st Congressional District.

And Cunningham may have U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, to thank for it.

Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, told Palmetto Politics he has been lobbying behind the scenes for months to get Cunningham into the "Red to Blue" program. 

"First, you have to demonstrate viability as a candidate," Clyburn said of the qualifications Cunningham needed, saying the internal polls he has seen show Cunningham polling well in the district, along with Democratic gubernatorial candidate James Smith.

"Secondly, you have to demonstrate the ability to raise money, and he has been meeting those targets recently, and I think that the overarching thing ... is how you fit into the overall scheme of things."

Schuyler Kropf, Seanna Adcox and Caitlin Byrd contributed to this report.

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.