Brad Hutto, a leading Democrat in the state Senate, has filed to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Lindsey Graham.
Hutto joins Columbia businessman Jay Stamper, who moved from Washington state last year to run against Graham, in seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat. Six Republicans have filed to challenge Graham in the June 10 GOP primary.
The Orangeburg attorney, who has been in the state Senate for 18 years, said the divisive battle among Republicans over Graham presents a chance for a Democrat to win the Senate seat, which has been held by the GOP for 50 years. Graham is under attack by some conservative Republicans who say he compromises too much with Democrats.
“I know South Carolina is a Red State, and Republicans have a leg up,” Hutto said Friday. “I saw that it’s going to be a (GOP) bruising primary, and that would give me an opening.”
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Hutto, 56, said he thinks 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.
Hutto said South Carolinians liked having U.S. senators from different parties, Republican Strom Thurmond and Democrat Fritz Hollings, for nearly 40 years. “They’d say, ‘We always had somebody to go to,’ ” he said. “Sometimes having people on both sides helps.”
South Carolina’s other senator, Republican Tim Scott, is running this year to complete the unexpired term of Republican Jim DeMint, who resigned from the Senate last year to head the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.
If elected, Hutto said he would work to bring more federal dollars back to the state and not spend so much time on television news shows, a dig at Graham, a staple of Sunday talk shows.
“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,” Hutto 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 of Camden.
“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, who has a criminal history including three felony pleas tied to an online investment business that Washington state regulators shut down. While Stamper has pushed forward with his campaign, the political newcomer had less than $4,000 to spend at the end of 2013.
Party leaders have made it clear that they are not happy with the prospect of Stamper winning the Democratic nomination, reviving memories of Alvin Greene, the unemployed Army veteran who won the party’s U.S. Senate nomination in 2010 before losing to Republican DeMint.
About Brad Hutto
The Orangeburg Democrat running for the Senate seat held by Lindsey Graham
Family: Wife, Tracy; son, Skyler, an Indiana University law student
Education: Bachelor’s degree, government/international studies and philosophy, University of South Carolina, 1978; law degree, Georgetown University, 1981
Political experience: State senator since 1996; Orangeburg County Democratic Party chairman from 1988-94
Community: Hutto, an Eagle Scout, was president of the Boy Scouts’ Indian Waters Council.
Staff writer Jamie Self contributed