COLUMBIA, SC — Brad Hutto, a leading Democrat in the state senate, has filed to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Lindsay Graham.
Hutto joins Columbia businessman Jay Stamper, who moved from Washington state last year to run against Graham, as Democrats who have filed for the race. Six Republicans have filed to challenge Graham in the June 10 primary.
Hutto, an Orangeburg attorney who has served in the state senate for 18 years, said the divisive battle among Republicans over Graham presents a chance for a Democrat to win the seat that has been under GOP control for 50 years.
"I know South Carolina is a Red State, and Republicans have a leg up," Hutto said. "I saw that it's going to be be a (GOP) bruising primary and that would give me an opening."
Hutto, 56, said he believes he can woo Republicans dissatisfied with Graham with a pitch "that I'm a practical middle-of-the-road guy."
"I have no aversions to working with Republicans," Hutto said.
He mentioned how South Carolinians liked having U.S. senators from different parties, Republican Strom Thurmond and Democrat Fritz Hollings, for nearly 40 years.
Hutto said, if elected, he would work to bring more federal dollars back to the state and not spend so much time on television news shows like Graham.
"If you look around South Carolina, we have roads that need improvement and schools that need repairs, and we're spending all this money overseas," he said. "It's time to bring some of that home. Investing in yourself is not a bad thing. George Washington did not found this country to be the world's policeman."
This is Hutto's first statewide race. He considered running for governor in 2010, but he and other Democrats decided to back state Sen. Vincent Sheheen.
"I think Democrats deserve to have a good quality candidate on the ticket," Hutto said of the senate race. "I had people say, 'We need someone who acts and talks and sounds like a Democrat.' "
Questions surround Stamper.
He has a criminal history that includes three felony pleas tied to an online investment business that Washington state regulators shut down. Stamper has pushed forward with his campaign despite news about his criminal history. The political newcomer had less than $4,000 to spend at the end of 2013.
The unknown Democrat's chances of seizing the nomination were reminiscent of Alvin Greene, an unemployed Army veteran who beat retired judge Vic Rawl for the 2010 Democratic nomination in the race against U.S. Republican Sen. Jim DeMint.