The Buzz

The Buzz: No money, no crowd? No problem, Graham’s U.S. Senate opponents hope

jself@ thestate.comOctober 20, 2013 

Sen. Lindsey Graham on left. From top on right: Richard Cash, Nancy Mace, state Sen. Lee Bright

THE STATE

About 30 supporters of Lee Bright’s campaign against incumbent Lindsey Graham in next June’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate gathered Wednesday at the State House.

Nearly all of them arranged themselves behind the podium – in the line of sight of reporters and cameras – holding signs that read “Lose Lindsey.”

At the mini-rally, representatives of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a national group with a S.C. chapter, gave their endorsement to the Republican state senator from Spartanburg.

“It’s tremendous,” Bright said of what the nod means for his campaign, which raised about $102,000 from July through September.

Bright and the other challengers looking to defeat U.S. Sen. Graham in June – Charleston public relations executive Nancy Mace and Easley businessman Richard Cash – have less than $500,000 combined to spend, compared with Graham’s nearly $7 million.

Still, thin crowds and low contributions may not mean the tea leaves are looking dark, Graham’s challengers insist.

Consider this, said Daniel Encarnacion, with the S.C. chapter of the Liberty Caucus.

The Liberty Caucus backed U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah before they were anybody, and now they’re Tea Party “heroes,” Encarnacion said. “Lee Bright is to the S.C. Senate what Ted Cruz, (Kentucky’s U.S. Sen.) Rand Paul and Mike Lee are to the U.S. Senate.”

The group passed on endorsing Mace or Cash. Neither answered the group’s survey.

But Mace got the nod from the Tea Party Leadership Fund. She raised $158,000 in the quarter, with more than $70,000 coming from contributions of $200 or less. Cash raised $14,680 in the third quarter.

Then Thursday, former GOP vice-presidential candidate, reality television personality and conservative pundit Sarah Palin – who has her own PAC – alluded to getting involved in S.C. races in a Facebook post.

“Friends, do not be discouraged by the shenanigans of D.C.’s permanent political class today. Be energized. We’re going to shake things up in 2014,” wrote Palin, who in 2010 boosted then-state Rep. Nikki Haley by endorsing the Lexington Republican for governor.

“Rest well tonight, for soon we must focus on important House and Senate races. Let’s start with Kentucky – which happens to be awfully close to South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi – from sea to shining sea we will not give up. We’ve only just begun to fight.”

Other national Tea Party and limited-government groups also could get involved in the Senate race in South Carolina, as Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller noted. “We’re watching the race.”

Running for something, Rick?

Following the congressional vote to end the partial federal shutdown Wednesday night – a move supported by only two of South Carolina’s nine leaders in Washington: U.S. Sen. Graham and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. – The Buzz received an unsolicited message.

“With bipartisan support, Congress finally passed a measure to reopen government and extend the debt ceiling. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott voted against it. When it comes to choosing between what’s best for South Carolina and America and what’s best for his Tea Party friends, Senator Tim Scott will always choose the Tea Party.”

The statement came from Democrat Rick Wade, who has helped President Barack Obama with his campaigns, and later was an adviser and held a post in the Obama administration.

Wade is weighing a run against Scott, R-Charleston, but has not committed.

But clearly, The Buzz notes, he is test-driving a message.

Bright goes Greek

Rarely does a conservative S.C. politician utter a positive word about Greece – the country often reviled for its debt woes.

But state Sen. Bright found at least one byproduct of the country useful recently.

Armed with experience from talking to his two teenage daughters, Bright took his limited-government grass-roots campaign to the young women of two University of South Carolina sororities.

Bright thought one meeting might have been mandatory, so his audience might not have been full of the politically active. But the visit was worthwhile, he said.

He added about two-dozen volunteers to his list, and one young woman stood up and told him she’d been a supporter all along.

Buzz bites

University of South Carolina government leaders were in D.C. Friday lobbying on financial aid and other issues, when they paid a visit to Fran Person, a former Gamecocks football player who now is Vice President Joe Biden’s personal aide. The group watched Biden give a speech and then got a surprise, when Biden invited them back to his office, said USC student body president Chase Mizzell.

Quote of the week

“We tried that, and it didn’t work out so well,” state Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, on a suggestion by another lawmaker that South Carolina take over some then-closed federal park sites, such as Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, the scene of the start of the recent unpleasantness.

Staff writer Andrew Shain contributed. Reach Self at (803) 771-8658.

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