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Who is Carla Sands, the former ambassador to Denmark running for Senate?

Sands, 61, is aiming to use her connections to former President Donald Trump to sway GOP primary voters and try to land a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate Carla Sands talks with supporters after a live televised debate at Dickinson College Apr. 26, 2022.
Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate Carla Sands talks with supporters after a live televised debate at Dickinson College Apr. 26, 2022.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

Carla Sands was a chiropractor, an actress, and later the U.S. ambassador to Denmark under President Donald Trump. She served on his 2016 campaign’s economic advisory council, hosted a major Trump fund-raiser at her Bel Air home, and gave more than $460,000 combined to his campaign and inaugural committees in 2016 and 2020.

She had never held public office or run for election before the Trump administration. But Sands, 61, is aiming to use her connections to the former president to sway GOP primary voters and try to land a seat in the U.S. Senate. She would be the first woman elected to the Senate from Pennsylvania.

» READ MORE: Get to know the 2022 candidates for Pa. Senate and governor

What is Carla Sands’ background?

Sands grew up just outside Harrisburg, in Camp Hill, had a brief acting career (she made 15 appearances on The Bold and the Beautiful, according to IMDB), and worked in the 1990s as a chiropractor. She spent much of her adult life in a wealthy part of Southern California, living in Bel Air and marrying real estate mogul Fred Sands. After his death in 2015, she became CEO of his company, Vintage Capital.

Sands joined the Trump campaign’s economic advisory council in 2016, one of several women added to the group after Trump initially named a panel of 23 men. The Senate confirmed her as ambassador to Denmark in November 2017. In January 2020, during her time as ambassador, she registered to vote in Pennsylvania for the first time in decades. Her campaign has noted that was months before Republican Sen. Pat Toomey announced plans to retire.

In a sign of the personal wealth she brings to the race (she’s one of a few very rich GOP candidates), Sands sold her 14,700-square-foot Bel Air home for $19.5 million in 2018, according to the Los Angeles Times. She earlier sold a Malibu home for almost $13.7 million.

What are Carla Sands’ top policy priorities?

“The No. 1 thing I want to do on day one is work to stop the out-of-control spending,” Sands said in an interview, arguing that major bills from President Joe Biden and fellow Democrats have driven inflation.

Sands, like other Republicans, generally calls for unleashing American energy resources by easing regulations, arguing that will help lower prices for consumers and strengthen national security by reducing reliance of foreign energy. She didn’t specify what regulatory or legal changes she would support, making it impossible to analyze how effective such plans would be or what environmental trade-offs they would entail. She instead offered a general posture, saying she wants a “Marshall Plan” for energy.

“I want your readers to think about me when they’re filling their gas tank,” Sands said. “If they want that price of their gas to go down, I’m their candidate.”

Who is backing Carla Sands?

Sands has funded much of her campaign out of her own pocket, putting in $3.9 million, 85% of the total she had raised by the end of March. She has struggled to get donors to support her.And by dollar amount, nearly half of her donations have come not from Pennsylvania, but California.

She hasn’t racked up many big-name supporters, though several Republicans have said they see a path for her to win as a Republican woman in a primary with two male front-runners.

» READ MORE: Everything you need to know about voting in Pa.’s May 2022 primary election

Sands has told GOP insiders that she was aiming to turn her connections to Trump into an endorsement that might swing the primary her way, but the former president backed celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz instead.

What else should I know?

Sands has struggled with staff turnover. She has already parted ways with two consulting teams, which is never a great sign for a campaign.

After the 2020 election she wrongly claimed there were problems with her vote in Pennsylvania. Sands tweeted multiple times that her absentee ballot hadn’t been counted. Public records showed it had been.

Sands would not say in a March interview if she would have voted to certify Pennsylvania’s 2020 Electoral College votes, and thus count the state’s almost 7 million presidential votes. She instead echoed false claims that money from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg swung the election.

“Now we know that the Zuckerberg money, the Zuck bucks as they call them, actually did change the outcome,” Sands said, falsely saying that in cities like Philadelphia, money to fund election administration decided “where the drop boxes were going to be placed, who was going to be counting ballots.”

Those decisions were made by local officials.