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Politics: Race for GOP Senate nomination is an numbers game
By Jason Lesley
By Jason Lesley
Lindsey Graham made his case for returning a two-term incumbent to the U.S. Senate Saturday during a visit to Georgetown and a tour of the port.
Graham said he would seek up to $12 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over a two-year period to help dredge the channel leading to the port and provide more business opportunities to the region. “If you don’t understand that the Georgetown Port is important,” Graham said, “then you are really not a very good senator from South Carolina. This part of the state has two things going for it: natural beauty and a capacity to provide jobs beyond tourism.”
Graham, accompanied by freshman U.S. Rep. Tom Rice of the state’s new 7th Congressional District, told supporters Saturday at the Rice Paddy, a restaurant on Front Street, that his goal is to avoid a runoff in the GOP primary by winning at least 50 percent of the vote on June 10.
“A lot of things will come my way between now and June 10,” Graham said, “and a lot of it is not going to be pretty. You may not always agree with me but don’t believe this garbage. I’ll take criticism, but I can’t tolerate having people lying about who I am and what I do. That’s where you are so helpful. My goal is to be a senator you can be proud of. I’ll never embarrass you, and I will be there when you need help from Washington.”
Graham said he and Rice had worked together to change the law regarding the federal Harbor Maintenance Fund, setting aside 10 percent of fees paid for small ports like Georgetown.
Graham said he helps the Corps of Engineers write its budget, and Georgetown’s port is perfectly positioned for assistance because the dredging project is a joint effort between local, state and federal sources.
“We’re not asking them to come down here and bail us out,” Graham said of the Corps of Engineers. “We’re asking them to come down and be part of the vision.”
State Sen. Yancy McGill said Graham has assisted rural areas of the state during his 12 years in the U.S. Senate. This is a regional port,” McGill said, “that will help the whole lower part of the state erase areas of double-digit unemployment. We appreciate what you have done.”
Graham said having a financial plan for the $33.5 million dredging project with $5 million locally and $18.5 from the state helps him move it forward with the Corps. “What I’m going to convince the Corps of,” he said, “is we want to close the gap, get 10-12 million dollars over a couple year period. That helps.”
Jim Jerow, former county Republican Party chairman who stood in for new party leader Randy Hollister, said, “Sen. Graham has done so much for the state of South Carolina, and freshman Congressman Tom Rice is helping him. We are blessed to have men of this caliber working for our state and our country.”
Graham said he met Paige Sawyer, former Georgetown City Council member, when he first ran for the Senate 12 years ago. “We started a little coffee club that grew and grew, and I won the county. That means a lot to me,” Graham said. “This county is changing. You could have had a meeting of the Republican Party 20 years ago around one of these tables. All of you who have grown the party, thank you very much. Tom and I are the beneficiaries of that. The reason we’re doing well is people like yourself. That’s my ace in the hole.”
Graham wants to return to Washington with a Republican majority in the Senate to begin moving the nation forward economically and call the Obama Administration to task for its policy decisions.
“The problem we have right now is that bills from the House die in the Senate,” Graham said. “There’s legislation in the House to approve the Keystone Pipeline, and we can’t bring it up for a vote. If we had a Republican majority in the Senate, we’d be voting to build the Keystone Pipeline.”
Graham said he can count as many as 17 Democrats who favor the pipeline. “That would give us enough to break the filibuster. That’s an example of where they are not going to defy their Democratic leadership, but if they had to vote they would vote with us.”
From a party point of view, Graham said it’s not enough to talk about Democratic failures. “Wouldn’t you like to have something positive to talk about?” he asked supporters Saturday. “I think we need a contract with America. If we come up with a positive agenda for the Tea Party and the Ronald Reagan Republicans like Tom and me, we could all agree. Give us power. Here’s what I would do with it.”
Graham said a Republican majority in the Senate would move the country off gridlock and cited the following circumstances:
• Long-term unemployment reform: “Rather than writing checks forever,” he said, “we could start retraining people. If you’ve lost your job for a year, chances are that job’s not coming back to the economy.”
• Infrastructure: “There’s a bipartisan consensus to bring back into the country $2 trillion in foreign banks. There are more than a handful of Democrats who would give a one-time good deal, say a 10 percent tax rate, but the unions hate it so they block the Senate. If you could have a bill pass from the House to the Senate to bring back this $2 trillion at 10 percent rather than 35 percent and dedicate the money to infrastructure, I think it would become law. I can get that bill up in the Senate. We need to rebuild America before it’s too late.”
• Obamacare: “If we had the Senate,” Graham said, “we could vote on whether states could opt out of Obamacare. We might find some Democrats who say it’s not working and if my state wants out let them out.
“It’s not about the 30 million uninsured. It’s designed to drive the private sector out of health care and put us all in a single-payer European plan. It’s a huge issue. Every Democrat owns it. Every Republican voted against it.”
• Investigations: “We could have a joint committee to look at Benghazi, the IRS and what authority does the president have to unilaterally change a statute,” Graham said. “When it comes to oversight it would be night and day. The first thing I would do is call Eric Holder to the Senate and say, ‘Eat a big breakfast, Eric, you’re going to be here all day. Explain to us how the president is able to change laws he doesn’t like with the stroke of a pen.’ It’s the most dangerous thing in Washington.”
• Immigration: “I want to fix this once and for all,” Graham said. “First, let’s secure the border. Then control who gets a job by using E-Verify that makes it harder to hire illegals. If you hire illegals, you should lose your business. We have a labor shortage in certain areas of our economy. We should bring people into the country to work and let them go home when the time is up.
“As to the 11 million who are here illegally, some can stay, some have to leave. Nobody stays unless they learn our language. Nobody gets to jump ahead of those doing it the right way. Nobody stays without paying a fine and getting right with the law. That to me, is a practical solution.”
The Republican primary winner in Graham’s race faces no Democratic opposition in November. “The Democrats know they cannot beat me,” he said. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t get the Senate back. We’ve got seven Democrats who hold seats in state’s [Mitt] Romney won. I could work with Tom more effectively because everything he sends to the Senate dies because of Harry Reid. Harry needs a break.
“Our race is going to come down to what is conservative and what do you want your senator to do. Washington is broken, not because we do too many things but because we almost can’t do anything right. We are paralyzed as a nation. I’m running for a third term because I’ve got something to offer in the next six years. It’s not what I’ve done in the past. I’m proud of my record. It’s what I can do for my state and my nation in the future.”
Lee Bright, a state senator from Spartanburg who is running in the South Carolina Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, says re-electing incumbent Lindsey Graham will hurt the conservative movement.
“This is my fear,” Bright told members of the Georgetown County Republican Women’s Club this week, “Republicans take over the Senate, 51-49, and we all feel galvanized because we’ve done it. We’re finally going to take the fight to Obama, and, guess what, Lindsey Graham and John McCain go vote with the Democrats, and we’re still outnumbered.”
Graham has been touting his credentials in campaign stops — he visited Georgetown Saturday — and in commercials, but his views have left room on the right for challengers. Bright, Easley businessman Richard Cash, Orangeburg attorney Bill Connor and Charleston public relations executive Nancy Mace point to Graham’s approval rating in recent polls, below 50 percent among Republicans and even lower among all S.C. voters.
Bright is hoping to prevent Graham from getting 50 percent of the votes in the June 10 primary and force a runoff on June 24.
“These other candidates will get people out to vote that would not normally vote,” Bright said. “If we get into a runoff, we will win. I have no doubt in my mind because he’s going to get every vote he’s going to get on June 10. On June 24 people will come out of the woodwork.”
Bright said he aligns himself philosophically with U.S. Senate members Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Rand Paul. “We’ve got some people trying to lead,” he said, “but they’ve got to have help. I don’t want to be doom and gloom, but I don’t think we have much time left. I think we are going to have to make our stand in this election right here in South Carolina. I would rather be right than be rational. It’s about liberty. It’s about freedom. If we don’t take hold of it now, we’re never going to get it back.”
Bright said Graham only votes conservatively for six months prior to elections. “If Graham wins,” Bright said, “he will be so embolden he may not even vote conservative for six months next time.”
Bright said there are only about 20 true conservatives in the U.S. Senate. “I am so frustrated with the leadership in Congress,” he said. “Congress controls the money, and we caved. Democrats are bullies. Obama is a Chicago thug bully, and until you punch a bully in the nose he’s going to bully you. We don’t have the members of Congress willing to fight. We’ve got a few. It’s sad.”
Government regulations and the time he devoted to the state Senate caused the failure of his trucking business, Bright said. “I was raised without a lot, and my goal in life was to have a lot,” he said. “That was really what I lived for. When I got into politics, I had a lot. Now I’m broke. I love liberty, and I love freedom, and it’s cost me a lot. I had a $10 million company when I got started in politics, and now I have a consulting business and a truck brokerage.”
Bright said changes in vehicle emission laws drove up the price of trucks. He went into debt just as the economy faltered and couldn’t recover. “I am a living consequence of what happened in the trucking industry,” he said. “The federal government doesn’t think about the consequences. They think about the headlines.”
Bright said South Carolina is a “crony capitalist” state with connected insiders having an advantage. “It’s a terrible system,” he said. “You want the free market making decisions. I’m very passionate about having clean air and clean water, but I also tell you off the coast of Georgetown we have a tremendous amount of natural gas. It could be a game-changer for this state. We have a president who wants to deny us our own natural resources. We need to be fighting for that.”
Bright is best known in the state Senate for introducing a “constitutional carry” bill removing the requirement of a permit for concealed weapons. “It’s more than a gun right,” he said. “It’s a right to self-defense. When you take guns out of the equation, it’s whoever has the bigger club, but amongst women a gun is the great equalizer. I have a daughter who is 19 years old, and it upsets me that she can’t carry a gun. She’s under threat. There are evil men in this world, and I would like for her to be able to defend herself. It’s a travesty that she has to go to the government and ask for permission to do such a thing.”
Bright’s bill ran into trouble when Sen. Greg Hembree, a former solicitor, objected to wording that would allow people convicted of non-violent felonies to legally carry a concealed weapon. “I don’t think a person who shoplifts when they are 19 years old should be denied the right to own a gun,” Bright said. “Martha Stewart should be allowed to defend herself. I don’t think she’s a threat. We are so willy-nilly in taking people’s gun rights away.”
Bright said the federal government should have no role in education and the U.S. Department of Education should be eliminated. “In my view, where education was in the early 1900s, we were better off then,” Bright said. “This government control of education, Common Core, don’t anybody lie to you and say it wasn’t a federal program. When there’s $1.2 billion attached, that’s a federal program. It may not be fully controlled by the federal government, but a lot of Obama’s henchmen were involved in setting it up. Education should be left to the states, and furthermore, to the communities, the teachers and parents.”
Bright said educators are brainwashing children about man-made global warming and cramming the homosexual agenda down their throats. “I wouldn’t give K-12 another dime until we get real school choice,” Bright said. “We continue to throw money at the problem. Teachers are doing all they can do. It drives me crazy that they continue to build bigger parking lots for these administrators. Every time I turn around there’s a new assistant superintendent of something. We can’t afford it. If we don’t get things under control with education, we won’t be able to pave a single road.” [E-Mail Article To a Friend]