The Buzz

FIRST ON BUZZ: Graham’s 2016 testing-the-waters effort hires 2

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s 2016 presidential “testing the waters” team has added two S.C. staffers – both veterans of the Seneca Republican’s Senate campaigns.

Shell Suber and Caroline O’Neal, both of Columbia, have joined Security Through Strength as the S.C. political director and finance director. The political group raising money to help Graham determine whether to pursue a White House run.

Suber was the political director for Graham’s 2008 Senate campaign and, after the primary, for the S.C. Republican Party’s “victory” effort.

Suber also chaired the Richland County Republican Party and, from 1990-94, worked in Washington, D.C., for the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond.

A graduate of The Citadel military college, Suber most recently worked as a consultant with the Felkel Group, a Greenville public-relations firm.

There, Suber managed several accounts related to energy, immigration and other issues, said Chip Felkel, the firm’s chief executive.

“We’re sad to see him go, but this is a great opportunity for him.”

While GOP consultants may have to choose between allegiances as the presidential field takes shape, Suber says he’s always been with Graham, who “has the guts to step out on difficult political issues” such as immigration.

A University of South Carolina graduate, O’Neal was deputy finance director for Graham’s 2014 re-election campaign where she oversaw in-state fundraising.

She also worked as a financial consultant for Graham, U.S. Rep. Tom Rice of Myrtle Beach and former Congressman Henry Brown of Charleston.

The new hires come after Graham has made repeated trips to early primary states Iowa and New Hampshire to woo conservative voters. The senator said he would decide by May whether seek the GOP presidential nomination.

While several GOP White House hopefuls have hired consultants in the state, Ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin – the early favorites in polls – have not announced any hires.

Also in Graham’s corner is David Wilkins, chairman of Security Through Strength.

The former S.C. House speaker was U.S. ambassador to Canada under President George W. Bush. Wilkins also chairs S.C. Conservative Action Alliance, an issue advocacy group that has run ads favorable to Graham.

Reach Self at (803) 771-8658