NRCC chairman refuses to back Mark Sanford for House

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Mark Sanford is a former GOP House member and governor, but after resigning amid an adultery scandal, he’s not getting an automatic endorsement from the Republican Party as he campaigns to return to Congress.

Greg Walden, the newly minted chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, pointedly refused to back Sanford, who is running in a special House election in South Carolina, the state he ran for a decade.

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“That’ll be up to South Carolinians to figure out who they think is the strongest nominee for that seat,” Walden told reporters during a briefing at the House GOP’s annual retreat in Williamsburg, Va. “My goal is after they pick that person, to win that seat.”

Sanford resigned the governorship in disgrace in 2010 after admitting to having an affair with a woman in Argentina at a time when he told his staff and the public he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. He announced this week he was seeking the Republican nomination for the House seat being vacated by former Rep. Tim Scott (R), who was appointed to the Senate.

“He’s going to have to convince the Republicans in South Carolina that he’s the best nominee,” Walden said. “That’s not a hit one way or another on him. He just needs to do that if he wants to be the nominee. He’s got to go earn it.”

Sanford served three terms in the House before becoming governor.

Walden indicated the NRCC would keep to its policy of staying out of competitive primaries, including for an upcoming special election in Missouri to replace Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R), who is resigning to take a lobbying job.

“We believe that the local parties in those districts should make those choices,” he said. “It’s not our job to pick winners and losers in primaries.”