HARRISBURG, Pa. — Carla Sands, former President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Denmark, announced Tuesday that she will join the crowded Republican primary field for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat.
She brings possibly significant personal wealth to the race, as well as ties to Trump in a race where such ties may be meaningful in a contested primary.
Sands for months has made the rounds of the state Republican Party’s circuit of dinners, meet-and-greets and fundraisers, introducing herself to party rank-and-file members after moving back from Copenhagen and selling her houses in California.
The race for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat is expected to be one of the nation’s most competitive in 2022 and help determine control of the chamber.
Democrats expect to have their own contested primary in a battleground state that hasn’t elected two Democratic senators at the same time since 1944.
Sands’ introductory campaign video hits on standard Republican themes and attacks on Democrats. In a brief interview, she said she decided to run when she was in Denmark and saw the “left and their rhetoric and the hard turn” by the Democratic Party.
“It just lurched so far into the socialist left that I didn’t recognize it and I got worried for our country,” Sands said.
She has never run for public office, but was active in Los Angeles’ philanthropic circles and drew two Trump appointments in 2017, one to his Council of Economic Advisers and one as ambassador to Denmark.
Sands, 60, grew up in Cumberland County, outside Harrisburg, and spent much of her adult life living in California.
There, she took over as CEO of Vintage Capital Group, the real estate investment firm founded by her late husband, Fred Sands, a prominent Republican campaign donor, philanthropist and real-estate mogul who died in 2015.
She helped raise money for Trump’s campaign during the 2016 presidential campaign, hosting a fundraiser at her Bel Air mansion, and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Trump campaign efforts.
“President Trump, I helped him get elected in 2016, I fought for him because I saw a leader who looked at the world as it is, not as people hoped it would be, and he believed in me,” Sands said.
Sands had a TV and movie career and was a chiropractor before she married Fred Sands in 1999.
While ambassador to Denmark, she sold two homes in California — one in Malibu for $13.7 million and the one in Bel Air for $19.5 million — according to the Los Angeles Times.
Upon leaving the ambassador’s post, she filed a public disclosure of assets, valuing more than 50 accounts or properties at between $35 million and $152 million, a wide range that is a result of the government’s request that each asset be valued within a certain dollar bracket.
The primary election is next May. The seat is open after Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey announced in October that he would not run for a third term.
Republicans already running are Sean Parnell, a decorated Army veteran and author whose regular guest appearances on Fox News programs helped make him a favorite of Trump, as well as real estate investor Jeff Bartos and conservative commentator Kathy Barnette, among others.
All three lost the last race they were in — Bartos for lieutenant governor in 2018 and Barnette and Parnell for Congress in 2020 — and Sands made sure to bring that up, saying “everyone that’s in the race on the Republican side actually ran and lost. … I’m a winner, I play for real and I intend to win this race.”
As Trump’s ambassador to Denmark, she allegedly banned an American academic known for being critical of Trump from speaking at a U.S. government-sponsored seminar on NATO and transatlantic relations in Copenhagen.
In February, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel reported that Sands had repeatedly used the official Twitter account for the U.S. ambassador to Denmark to violate the Hatch Act. The federal law bars executive branch employees from partisan politics.
Starting in late 2019, Sands sent or retweeted numerous messages from the account criticizing Democrats or Democratic candidates for president, or retweeting groups that were supportive of Trump, the report said.
Sands’ Hatch Act violations “were knowing and willful,” it said, continuing even after the office warned her about it.
Her lawyers responded to the agency, and disagreed with its conclusions.