Cutouts in tow, Democratic Congressional challenger Joe Cunningham promises not to be another Mark Sanford

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In all honesty, Rep. Mark Sanford is taller than this in real life - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • In all honesty, Rep. Mark Sanford is taller than this in real life
Local attorney Joe Cunningham hopes to become the first democrat to hold South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District seat since 1981, and he’s taking the fight directly to incumbent Rep. Mark Sanford to do it.

Flanked by two cardboard cutouts of Sanford, Cunningham formally declared his campaign for Congress Monday from the front steps of the U.S. Custom House on East Bay Street. To Cunningham’s right was the image of a younger Sanford from the time when the future governor announced his run for Congress in 1994. To his left was the Mark Sanford of today.

“Twenty-three years ago, a man stood right here at the Customs House to say the problem with Washington, D.C. is too many career politicians spending too much of our tax dollars because they were influenced by too much special interest PAC money. And you know what? He was right. That man, nearly a quarter of a century ago, was Mark Sanford,” said Cunningham. “But the Mark Sanford of 1994, isn’t the Mark Sanford of today.”

The Congressional hopeful then went on to challenge Sanford for moving beyond his initial promise to serve only three terms and accepting more than $600,000 in special interest PAC money.

Of course, Sanford’s first period in Congress lasted for three terms before he retired to run for governor of South Carolina. Sanford then returned to Congress in 2013 after being elected to fill the vacant seat left by Sen. Tim Scott.

But before Sanford can hope to make his way to the November 2018 general election, the incumbent must first face Republican opponent state Rep. Katie Arrington. Arrington has also been quick to label Sanford as a career politician. Taking a strong stance in opposing abortion and supporting gun rights, Arrington has labelled herself as the Conservative candidate in this election.

While those vying for Sanford’s seat continue to work to distance themselves from the Congressman, Cunningham’s use of cardboard cutouts may remind some of the time Sanford debated a cardboard cutout of Nancy Pelosi during his campaign against challenger Elizabeth Colbert Busch. While the use of props may seem the same, Cunningham attempted to assure voters that he would take a very different path than Sanford, vowing to limit himself to three terms, refuse contributions from special interest groups, and focus on solutions to infrastructure concerns in the Lowcountry.

“Our current congressman won’t lift a finger to improve roads and traffic in the Lowcountry. But I will,” Cunningham said Monday. “I’ll work with Republicans and Democrats around the country who have their own road and infrastructure needs and put together a package that works for all of us.”


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