Challengers to South Carolina Senator Are Lining Up on the Right

Kim Severson, New York Times, August 26, 2013

Some of the early shots in the Republican primary battle against Senator Lindsey Graham have been fired from this tiny community on the northern border of the state where the Civil War began.

A small group called Carolina Conservatives United, one of dozens organized loosely under the flag of limited government, low taxes and strict adherence to the Constitution, sent out images last week of a milk carton bearing Mr. Graham’s face and asked Gov. Nikki R. Haley to issue the state’s version of an Amber Alert to find its missing senator.

“Lindsey Graham has not been seen in the state of South Carolina for most of the last two years,” said Bruce Carroll, the chairman of the group.

Conservatives in South Carolina are eager to oust Mr. Graham, who has enraged the far right for, among other things, reaching across the aisle on immigration and supporting President Obama’s nominations for the Supreme Court. {snip}

{snip} At least 40 groups align themselves along Tea Party and Libertarian lines, and trying to unify them to topple the state’s senior senator will be no easy task.

So far, three people have stepped forward to challenge Mr. Graham in the June primary: State Senator Lee Bright; Richard Cash, a former Congressional candidate; and Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from the Citadel and, at the moment, the challenger whose political star is rising the fastest.

Ms. Mace, the owner of a public relations firm in Charleston, prides herself on her social media skills. She has never run for office, but her story is familiar to many here. For a time, she became the face of gender integration when she graduated from the Citadel in 1999, an experience she followed with a 2001 book, “In the Company of Men: A Woman at the Citadel.”

Toughing it out at the formerly all-male military college makes her a perfect candidate for voters seeking a true conservative, she said.

“I feel like they are looking for someone who is very strong and who won’t waver,” she said in an interview last week. {snip}

{snip}

Ms. Haley said she was not jumping into the battle over who should replace Mr. Graham. Speaking this month at the annual Red State gathering, organized by Erick Erickson, the founder of the conservative blog RedState.com, the governor said: “I controlled Tim Scott. We’ll see what you do with the other one.”

She was referring to former Representative Tim Scott, a Tea Party favorite she appointed this year to the Senate seat vacated by Jim DeMint, who left to head the Heritage Foundation.

{snip}

The state’s traditional Republican leaders and political consultants say that it will take a deeply unified effort to mount a successful campaign against Mr. Graham, but that in South Carolina, an unpredictable state with one of the country’s largest number of prominent Tea Party politicians, it is not unthinkable.

The key is for one candidate to find a way to harness that power.

“Anybody who wants to look at all those groups with a broad stroke should think again,” said Matt Moore, the chairman of the state’s Republican Party.

This summer, dozens of conservative groups talked about finding the state’s Ted Cruz—a reference to the Texas senator whose long-shot, grass-roots victory in 2012 is considered a model among Tea Party supporters.

{snip}

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