He’s not officially in yet, but South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright looks like he will be Sen. Lindsey Graham’s next Republican challenger.
The Republican from Spartanburg has not announced, but he is up with a new website declaring his intention to run for Senate.
“As a South Carolina state senator, Lee Bright has earned the reputation for being the most conservative leader in the legislature,” the post reads. “His impeccable voting record reveals a strong belief in Second Amendment freedoms, pro-life values, the advancement of civil liberties and fiscal responsibility. It’s time to take this proven track record to the U.S. Senate so South Carolina can lead the charge against the Washington establishment.”
Over the weekend Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from The Citadel, officially announced her candidacy and Richard Cash, a South Carolina businessman announced several months ago.
Graham has been hit by criticism from conservatives in South Carolina and nationally who argue that he is too willing to negotiate with Democrats and compromise on some issues.
Graham does have $6.3 million in the bank, and that’s one big reason, despite some conservative discontent, some people in South Carolina still view him as hard to beat.
“Lee Bright has a long way to go,” South Carolina political strategist Wesley Donehue, who isn’t working for any of the candidates, told ABC News. “If he can raise money he will have a decent shot, but it is still a very, very long stretch for him.”
“One, the money, that’s a big haul to try and catch up with and, two, Lindsey Graham is not as unpopular as people think,” Donehue said. “There’s a small minority that is very, very loud and don’t like it, but you ask Joe Blow on the street, they like him. He is a no BS guy and that resonates with South Carolinians.”
More candidates in the race could help Graham, because it could splinter the anti-Graham vote, but South Carolina is a run-off state, which means Graham needs at least 50 percent of the primary vote to avoid a run-off. If that does not happen, Graham will be head-to-head with one competitor and that could possibly spell trouble for the incumbent.
Donehue says Bright has “more credibility and experience” than Mace, but says all of Graham’s challengers will “spend all their money to try and get to a runoff with Lindsey Graham and Lindsey will still be sitting on $3 million.”
Graham not only has three challengers, he also has a super PAC called Carolina Conservatives United running a campaign against him.
The conservative activist group launched by Bruce Carroll, the former co-founder of the Gay Republican group GOProud, launched DefeatLindseyGraham.org earlier this month. They are also bringing some heat to Graham, or trying to, with a Web ad that ends with the line, “It’s time to bring Lindsey home.”
“Everyone is very frustrated because he’s not reliably conservative,” Carroll said. “We can count on our congressional delegation, we can count on [Sen.] Tim Scott, R-S.C., but we can’t count on him and for one of the most conservative states in the nation, that is a source of frustration.”
Carroll says they plan to run more Web ads and possibly television ads, and also intend to follow him around when he’s back on the campaign trail.
“We want to make him answer for some of his votes and comments,” Carroll said. “But it’s hard to find him back home. He’s either in the Middle East or in Washington. We are hoping he visits South Carolina this summer.”
Graham is in Egypt this week with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., sent by President Obama to help resolve the crisis brought on when Egyptian armed forces deposed President Mohammed Morsi and imprisoned him, following massive street protests.