South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford won't endorse Arrington or Cunningham as his replacement

Rep. Mark Sanford (WCIV)

Even though he'll be leaving public office in January, U.S. Representative Mark Sanford is still in the public eye. At the State of the Port address in North Charleston, the outgoing lawmaker isn't weighing in on who should replace him.

"I'm not endorsing. I'm staying out of this race because that's the history of how I've handled these things in the past," said Rep. Sanford.

He contends he only endorses candidates he knows personally, like State Senator Tom Davis of Beaufort. Davis is a childhood friend who also served as chief of staff while Sanford was governor. Also, he doesn't think giving a nod to one candidate over the other makes a difference.

"One outsizes the proportion of one's impact to think that based on my endorsement it'll switch up the race one way or the other. I don't think that for a second," he said.

At least one political scientist finds his decision unusual.

"It is very uncommon to not have a person who's been a Republican for as long as Sanford not get behind the Republican in this race," said Dr. Gibbs Knotts, a political science professor at the College of Charleston.

Dr. Knotts believes most endorsements typically don't sway many voters. Still, he thinks it’s unusual to see a veteran of the GOP stay on the sidelines.

"Incumbents don't lose very often and so we don't find ourselves asking this question. I mean typically incumbents stay in Congress for as long as they want and then they retire,” Knotts explained. “They usually don't get beat and so we're in a little bit of new territory."

For Mark Sanford, he trusts the public to decide who should represent the Lowcountry in Congress.

"I think that this race will be decided based on the hopes, dreams, fears, concerns, and wishes of the voters of the first district and what they want to see in Washington, D.C.," Sanford said.

It’s possible the congressman could change his mind. Doctor Knotts points out Sanford opted not to endorse anyone in the presidential race, then showed up at a Ted Cruz rally. But Knotts says the first district is heavily Republican, so Katie Arrington may not need Sanford's endorsement.

Over the weekend, The Post and Courier’s editorial board endorsed Democrat Joe Cunningham.

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