U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham easily won a third term to the Senate Tuesday – adding three more vanquished challengers to the half-dozen Republicans he defeated in the June GOP primary.
“I return to the Senate not to seek revenge, but with a burning desire to right the ship of state before it’s too late,” Graham said in a statement from his campaign. “I’m seeking willing partners on both sides of the aisle.
“Tonight, the American people are choosing divided government and rejecting President Obama’s policies, which – he rightly indicated – were on the ballot. The question for the country is – can a conservative Republican Congress work with a liberal Democratic president to move our nation forward? The answer should be yes. I believe it must be yes.”
Graham’s challengers tried to paint him as, alternately, a warmonger or too moderate.
But Graham has said his primary win – without a runoff – proved GOP voters approve of his reputation as a Washington dealmaker.
Frustration over President Barack Obama’s foreign policy also recently led Graham to say he is considering a run for the White House in 2016. But the senator said Tuesday that he is still “far away” from making that decision.
The landslide win means the Seneca Republican will enter his 21st year in Congress in 2015, having served four terms in the U.S. House before his 2002 Senate win.
In a GOP-controlled Senate, Graham’s seniority could put him in line for leadership positions on the Senate Judiciary, Appropriations and Armed Services committees, where his clout as an outspoken voice on foreign policy would continue to grow.
State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, finished second in the race, followed by Charleston petition candidate Thomas Ravenel and Libertarian Victor Kocher of Columbia.
Conceding Tuesday, Hutto said he hopes “the campaign makes (Graham) understand that talking about us — and not something over the ocean — is important.”
Ravenel’s loss ends a political comeback attempt after the ex-GOP state treasurer resigned, pleaded guilty to felony cocaine charges and served time in jail.
Ravenel announced his Senate bid while also playing a part as a member on Bravo TV’s “Southern Charm” reality show. The timing of Ravenel’s return to politics cast doubt on the seriousness of his Senate bid, for which he spent more than $500,000, much of that money he loaned his campaign.
Hutto, also a latecomer to the race, entered in March as filing for the seat closed and beat Jay Stamper in the Democratic primary.
For about a year before Hutto decided to run, Stamper was the only Democrat running. The Washington state transplant said he moved to South Carolina to run against Graham. But Stamper’s felony convictions stemming from an online investment business rattled state Democratic leaders.
None of the candidates came close to matching the $13 million Graham raised for his re-election.
South Carolina’s other congressional incumbents also won re-election easily Tuesday.
U.S. Reps. Jim Clyburn, Democrat from Columbia; Jeff Duncan, Republican from Laurens; Trey Gowdy, Republican from Spartanburg; Mick Mulvaney, Republican from Indian Land; Tom Rice, Republican from Myrtle Beach; and Joe Wilson, Republican from Springdale, all were re-elected.
U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford was unopposed.