Mark Sanford Latest to Learn That Being Anti-Trump Is a Losing Game in GOP Primaries

The candidates who have challenged the president have not fared well in a number of primaries this year.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Another Republican who opposed President Trump has lost a primary, this time incumbent Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), who fell to State Rep. Katie Arrington in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. Sanford conceded just before 11 on Tuesday evening, saying, “The numbers indicate I am not going to win this race.”

With 85 percent of precincts reporting, per Decision Desk, Sanford was trailing 51.2-46, a separation of nearly 3,000 votes.

Arrington had received a last-minute boost in the form of a tweet from President Trump, who brought up one of the most sordid chapters of Sanford’s career.

“Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA,” Trump wrote hours before the polls closed in the Palmetto State. “He is MIA and nothing but trouble. He is better off in Argentina. I fully endorse Katie Arrington for Congress in SC, a state I love. She is tough on crime and will continue our fight to lower taxes. VOTE Katie!”

The president was, of course, referring to Sanford’s admission in 2009 that he had carried on an extramarital affair in Argentina.

Sanford, who failed to win the nomination for the seat he has held since 2013, despite support from colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus, was hardly the first party member to be punished by party voters for insufficient loyalty to Trump.

Last week, Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL)—who said she would not vote for Trump after the Access Hollywood tape came out—was forced into a runoff. Last month, Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) became the first incumbent to lose a primary this cycle when he was defeated by Baptist minister Mark Harris. Harris painted his opponent as an establishment Washington insider.

In Virginia, Republican voters also selected a candidate who expressly advertised himself as a Trump ally.

In the state, which is seemingly trending more blue by the day, voters selected a candidate who had previously run on preserving Confederate statues and was booted from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, as their nominee to challenge incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Corey Stewart narrowly won his primary on Tuesday night, edging out state delegate Nick Freitas, by a similar margin to the one he lost by in the GOP gubernatorial primary last year. Kaine is viewed as an overwhelming favorite in the race and Republicans had been quite concerned about Stewart winning for months now. He did not make matters better recently by creating headlines for appearing in a video with “pro-white” racist candidate Paul Nehlen with whom Stewart says he cut ties.

Kaine’s campaign wasted no time hitting Stewart.

“A cruder imitation of Donald Trump who stokes white supremacy and brags about being ‘ruthless and vicious,’ Corey Stewart would be an embarrassment for Virginia in the U.S. Senate, where he would eliminate health care for millions of Americans and slash public education funding,” Kaine’s spokesperson Ian Sams said in a statement.

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Democrats also got good news in a number of likely competitive House races in Virginia.

State Sen. Jennifer Wexton easily won the Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District and will go on to face incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), one of the most endangered Republican members of Congress in the country. Wexton defeated five primary opponents and earned almost 42 percent of the vote when the race was called. Comstock won re-election in 2016 even as Hillary Clinton won her district by 10 points in the presidential election. Comstock faced a primary challenger as well, in the form of conservative activist Shak Hill who earned the endorsement of former White House staffer Seb Gorka. Hill earned nearly 40 percent of the vote in that primary, another potential sign that Comstock could be in trouble.

Democrats also have their eyes on Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, where Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) is the incumbent. Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA Operations Officer, won a whopping 72 percent of the vote in her primary on Tuesday night and will face Brat in November.

The trend of Democratic women advancing through primaries was also seen in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District where former Navy Cmdr. Elaine Luria easily won her primary. It’s another target for Democrats where they hope Luria will defeat incumbent Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA). Before Tuesday night, journalist Leslie Cockburn was selected as the Democratic nominee for Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, where Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA) recently announced he was an alcoholic and would not seek re-election. With Cockburn, Democrats selected four women to run in some of the more competitive districts throughout the state.