The Charleston County Republican Party's executive committee took the unusual step Monday night of censuring U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham for stepping across the GOP party line.
County Chairwoman Lin Bennett said the unanimous vote "is an effort to get his attention. They (party leaders) are just fed up, and they want him to know they're fed up."
The resolution mentions Graham's cooperation with U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on a bipartisan energy bill, and his support for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program and the time he called some opponents of immigration reform "bigots."
"U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham -- in the name of bipartisanship -- continues to weaken the Republican brand and tarnish the ideals of freedom, rule of law, and fiscal conservatism," the resolution reads.
Bennett said the resolution passed unanimously by a voice vote among about 50 of the party's 104 executive committee members.
She said party faithful have talked about the resolution for a while. "The feeling is if you're not going to uphold the platform, then why bother to run as a Republican?" she said.
Graham's spokesman Kevin Bishop said his boss has a lifetime conservative voting record of 90 percent and last year was rated the 15th most conservative senator by National Journal.
"Like former President Reagan, he strongly believes elected officials need to find common ground and work together to solve difficult problems like making our nation energy-independent and protecting our environment," Bishop said. "Working to solve problems and being conservative are not mutually exclusive. You can do both and that's what people in South Carolina elected him to do."
Warren Sloan, a James Island Realtor and the county party's third vice chairman, said he wrote the resolution because he was upset with how Graham treated the crowd during recent town hall meetings.
"We have people in office who are not living by the Republican way," he said, "and yet nobody says anything about it. Lindsey Graham is a perfect example of that."
Throughout Graham's career, he has fashioned himself as a pragmatic politician willing to reach across the aisle and compromise to reach a solution. His recent willingness to support a cap-and-trade energy bill is just the latest example.
"I don't think that it will cause Lindsey Graham to do anything differently than he has already done," Bennett said, "but it's a message from the voters and activists in Charleston County that they have had enough."
But Clemson University political science professor Dave Woodard said Graham may have overreached on the cap-and-trade issue.
"I think he's in trouble. I really do," Woodward said. "Obviously, he doesn't run for a while (2014, to be exact), and he's hoping people forget, but I think that's not going to be the case. I think if he gets a serious challenge in the primary, he'll be in real trouble."
Bennett said Monday's vote was the first time in more than a decade, if ever, that the county party had censured a sitting Republican officeholder. Earlier this year, the state party censured Gov. Mark Sanford after his extramarital affair and absence from office while visiting his mistress in Argentina.
Graham not only won the GOP primary in Charleston County with 69 percent of the vote but also was one of the few Republicans to win in the county in the fall's general election.
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