Elections

‘I’m trying to pick up votes, not lose them,’ says Mark Sanford after bookstore run-in

Mark Sanford said his political campaigns have always been “organic” and “homegrown” — and as it turns out, they can also be disruptive.

In his first swing through the key early primary state of New Hampshire since launching his long shot bid for president, Sanford has done things decidedly his own way.

According to reports by the Associated Press, the former S.C. congressman and governor engaged in retail politics by interrupting an AARP meeting at the back of a diner in Manchester and announcing to the room, “Can I be rude?” by way of an introduction.

On Friday, he apparently entered a small independent bookstore in Exeter without advance warning, irking an employee.

“Just got ambushed by Mark Sanford who is I guess running for president? He thought it would be a good idea to just come in the store with a full video crew and try to talk to people?” Stef Kiper Schmidt tweeted. “We love having candidates come in the store but they 100% always ask in advance. UNLIKE THIS. WHICH WAS NOT COOL.”

Reached by The State by phone later in the afternoon, Sanford at first demurred that he was disrupting local businesses on the campaign trail.

Informed that a store clerk had tweeted his surprise arrival at her bookstore, Sanford clarified, “oh, that’s completely true.

“We had a rather large entourage, a bunch of local TV stations, and some poor girl behind the counter said ‘I don’t want to be on camera,’” said Sanford, adding that he and the camera crews were just wandering in and out of shops in Downtown Exeter when they happened upon Water Street Bookstore.

When it became clear Sanford’s presence was not appreciated, the candidate said he and his crew left the establishment.

“I’m not gonna torture people,” he said. “I’m trying to pick up votes, not lose them.”

Unlike other presidential campaigns, Sanford has opted at this point not to engage a full, formal staff, choosing instead to rely on a “band of volunteers” to help coordinate his challenge to President Donald Trump.

While there is a point person for press inquiries at this juncture, it is not clear whether Sanford has anyone assigned to doing advance work on behalf of the campaign.

A note on the bottom of email advisories regarding Sanford’s travel plans states that “Governor Sanford welcomes the opportunity to sit down with citizens and with media,” and interested parties should be in touch with “ideas of where and when.”

Informed by The State that Sanford’s staffing operation was still in flux, Schmidt tweeted, “it checks out.”

Sanford is due next week to visit Iowa, another early voting state in the 2020 presidential contest.

Emma Dumain works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, where her reporting on South Carolina politics appears in The State, The Herald, The Sun News, The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. She was previously the Washington correspondent for the Charleston, South Carolina Post and Courier. Dumain also covered Congress for Roll Call and Congressional Quarterly.
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