Politics & Government

GOP challenger opens 2020 run against Graham after she was attacked by an immigrant

Peggy Kandies is planning a GOP primary challenge against U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in 2020.
Peggy Kandies is planning a GOP primary challenge against U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in 2020. Provided

Charleston retiree Peggy Kandies is trying to launch a 2020 Republican primary challenge to Lindsey Graham, fueled by her anger at the U.S. senator’s immigration stance after she was attacked by an illegal immigrant.

Graham, a Seneca Republican, has repeatedly worked toward immigration reform that would include some legal protections for undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

Kandies, meanwhile, says she takes a hardline stance on immigration after she was attacked in 2010 in a Goose Creek home by a man in the country illegally.

“I was in the fight of my life,” Kandies said. “He headed-butted me, bit my lip... I was lucky to get out of there.”

At the time, Kandies said she used her Jiu Jitsu training to fight off her attacker, who wound up in prison after pleading guilty to assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct.

“I’m against any illegal amnesty, any DACA,” Kandies said, referencing the program that allows undocumented youth to stay in the country, which GOP President Donald Trump has tried to end. “That will just cause chain migration” of immigrants’ families, she said.

Kandies has worked as a parts manager for IBM and volunteered as an arts teacher in Charleston County schools. Nowadays, she works part time as a private investigator.

The first-time candidate is a longshot by any measure. Her filing with the Federal Election Commission doesn’t list any fundraising, and a Facebook page for her U.S. Senate campaign has drawn 192 likes.

Graham has drawn opposition from the conservative activists in the past. He faced six opponents in the 2014 Republican primary, which he ended up winning with 56 percent of the vote.

But since then, and especially over the past year, he has worked to insulate himself from potential challengers to his right.

He has become a close ally to President Donald Trump, and he was cheered by many on the right for his full-throated support for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during the judge’s contentious confirmation hearing last year.

Kandies, who says she is “behind Donald Trump 100 percent,” says she remained unconvinced by Graham’s alliance with Trump. “He’s trying to undermine Trump by getting on his good side,” she said.

Graham’s campaign would not comment on the early challenge from Kandies.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Jaime Harrison, a former state party chairman and a member of the Democratic National Committee, is exploring his own bid to unseat Graham in 2020.

Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.