About 150 supporters of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham joined him and a key ally, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., for a barbecue lunch Friday at The Citadel, and Graham told them what they wanted to hear: "We're going to win."
But that's not exactly what a dozen people dressed in bright yellow shirts and waving signs at a nearby intersection wanted to hear.
Those supporters of state Sen. Lee Bright, a Spartanburg Republican and one of Graham's six GOP opponents in the June 10 primary, waved anti-Graham signs, including "Honk to Lose Lindsey," and drew several honks from passing motorists.
Arthur Field of West Ashley said he was working for Bright because he wants a change. "Mr. Graham is a nice guy. He's had his 20 years. We do not need career legislators. We do not need a ruling elite."
Inside the barbecue venue, however, Folly Beach Mayor Tim Goodwin, who himself was re-elected Tuesday with 59 percent of the vote, said he was there because Graham's experience has been valuable in getting his city's beaches renourished.
"As hard as he worked for us, I'm going to try to see he gets 59 percent, for sure," Goodwin said.
Former U.S. Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C., also praised Graham for getting things done. "In politics, getting things done is the name of the game," he added.
But the star of Friday's event was Ayotte, who serves on the Senate's Armed Services Committee and who some pundits consider a likely vice presidential pick for the party's 2016 nominee.
Ayotte called Graham "a senator who makes things happen, and that's why I'm here today."
She praised Graham for being the only senator who serves in the military Reserve, for objecting to the military retiree benefit cuts in the recent budget deal and for pushing for answers about the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
She urged those attending the lunch to tell five friends to vote for Graham on June 10. "We have to win this election," Ayotte said. "If he loses this election, the Obama administration will be cheering."
Graham faces Bright, retired Columbia lawyer and pastor Det Bowers, Easley businessman Richard Cash, Columbia lawyer Benjamin Dunn, Orangeburg lawyer Bill Connor, and Charleston public relations executive Nancy Mace in the GOP primary.
Afterward, Graham said the crowded June 10 primary is a referendum on conservatism.
"You can be a good conservative and work with Democrats on issues like immigration," he said. "I just don't want to be a loud voice that can never get anything done."
Charleston lawyer Foster Gaillard, a Graham supporter who attended the lunch, saw things the same way. Asked the importance of the June 10 primary, Gaillard said, "I really think it's about the future of the Republican Party and whether the party is gong to be controlled by people who can get things done and work across the aisle."
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
Arthur Field of West Ashley, left, holds a sign for U.S. Senate candidate Lee Bright and talks about his opposition to Sen. Lindsey Graham's re-election. Robert Behre/Staff×
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, (left, in blue) pose for pictures at Graham's campaign event Friday at The Citadel. Robert Behre/Staff×