Graham challengers getting no national tea party support

Greenville News Washington bureauMay 1, 2014 

On left - US Senator Lindsey Graham On right- the GOP primary challengers (clockwise from top left)) Bill Connor, Det Bowers, Lee Bright, Benjamin Dunn, Nancy Mace, Richard Cash

THE STATE

— Sen. Lindsey Graham’s campaign has spent more on advertising this year than the amount of money raised by all six of his challengers combined, new campaign finance reports show.

Graham, the Republican from Seneca, bought more than $1 million in advertising during the first three months of the year, blanketing South Carolina with his re-election message on television, radio, the Internet and phone lines, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The June 10 Republican primary continues to present a stark contrast between the incumbent’s finances and the comparatively meager resources reported by his challengers.

Graham, running for his third term, added another $862,000 to his campaign account after January. About $160,000 came from political action committees and the rest came from individuals.

As of March 31, Graham’s campaign had more than $6.8 million. He spent more than $1.6 million in the first quarter of the year.

Graham’s recent donor list includes such familiar Upstate names as Richard Pennell Jr. of Greenville, president of Metromont Materials Corp.; Jimmy Gibbs of Spartanburg, president and CEO of Gibbs International; and Foster McKissick III of Greenville, president of Fairway Automotive Group.

Elsewhere in the state, donors include Hugh Lane Jr. of Charleston, CEO of the Bank of South Carolina; Randy Lee of Columbia, president of the South Carolina Health Care Association; and Otis Rawl Jr. of Lexington, president of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

Contributors from out of state include Robert Marcus, chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable; Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group; Mark Tercek, CEO of the Nature Conservancy; and Warren Eisenberg, co-chairman of Bed Bath and Beyond. Graham also received several contributions from executives with the Fluor Corp. in Texas and South Carolina.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, one of Graham’s Republican colleagues, contributed $5,000 from his leadership PAC.

The latest FEC reports from Graham’s six GOP challengers show no support from national tea party or conservative organizations. Their donor lists consist mostly of individuals in South Carolina and reflect little PAC activity.

Graham’s race is so far not as competitive as some had predicted, said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

“For years, the tea party and others have been vowing to take down Sen. Graham,” Sabato said.

“Yet now when he is on the ballot, the senator's opposition splits six ways to Sunday. Even if he is forced into a runoff, how in the world do his opponents reunite quickly enough and fund the remaining challenger? Very, very tough.”

Columbia pastor Det Bowers, a relative newcomer in the race, raised $412,000, according to his first FEC report. He spent about $35,000 from Jan. 1 through the end of March, not including $9,200 he had to refund to companies. Corporations aren’t allowed to contribute directly to federal candidates.

Bowers’ Upstate supporters include Bob Arial, an attorney in Greenville; Victor Huskey of Greenville, of Huskey Construction; and Irvin Philpot III, a Greenville attorney. William Jones of Irmo, president of Columbia International University, also donated to Bowers.

Bowers’ report shows the campaign paid his son, Joel Bowers, about $4,700 in salary during March.

Richard Cash, who owns Road Runner Autos in Piedmont, raised $144,000 in the first three months of the year and personally loaned his campaign another $200,000 on March 31. He had about $464,000 at the end of the quarter.

Donors to Cash’s campaign include Lyndon Ellenburg of Anderson, of Ellenburg Nursing Home; Pierce Stockman III of Greenwood, president of Stockman Oil; and the National Association for Gun Rights PAC.

Nancy Mace, a Charleston public relations executive, raised about $208,000 during the quarter and had about $223,000 at the end of March.

Some of her donations came from Andrew Falatok of Spartanburg, president of Tex Mach Inc.; Walter Carr of Hannahan, president of Carr Properties; and Vicki Cook, owner of Cook Manufacturing Group Inc. in Florida. She also received a PAC donation from the National Association for Gun Rights.

State Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg raised about $140,000 during the quarter and had about $79,000 at the end of March. His donors include George Davenport Jr. of Greer, owner of D&D Motors; David Gray of Sunset, president of Sun Machinery Co.; and Dianne Belsom of Laurens, president of the Laurens County Tea Party. Bright also accepted a donation from the National Association for Gun Rights PAC.

Bill Connor, an Orangeburg attorney, raised $70,000 during the quarter and added another $100,000 personal loan to his campaign. He reported $314,000 on March 31, and $310,000 in debts.

Donors to Connor’s campaign include Timothy Morgan Sr. of Greer, CEO of GMG Holdings, and Joseph Rich of Orangeburg, owner of Sunshine Recycling.

Benjamin Dunn, a lawyer in Columbia, reported $6,700 in donations and a $3,700 loan to the campaign, giving him $10,400 at the end of the quarter.

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