The Post and Courier asked each of Sen. Lindsey Graham's six primary opponents for their thoughts on what they perceive as his biggest weaknesses, and what about his tenure in Washington most motivated them to enter the race. Since Graham's campaign declined to respond, the newspaper reviewed its previous news stories, Graham's Senate website and other sources to summarize his record.
Too long in D.C.
Det Bowers, minister, lawyer: "I commend Sen. Graham for his years of service, but the Palmetto State is tired of the broken culture of Washington that he is symbolic of. Unfortunately, he has become part of the problem instead of fighting for a solution. Whether it is our skyrocketing debt and deficits, an overreaching tax structure, or our problems abroad, Washington has stopped serving South Carolinians. It is time to send a fresh, conservative voice to Washington on their behalf and I am focused on discussing with my fellow South Carolinians how I, in comparison, can better reflect their values."
Graham record: Up until the 21st century, South Carolina's experiences with U.S. senators showed voters favored longevity and seniority. Republican Strom Thurmond, who held the seat before Graham, served for 48 years; Democrat Ernest Hollings served for more than 38 years.
Graham has been in Washington since 1994, including eight years in the House of Representatives, until becoming Thurmond's endorsed successor.
All six of the challengers are offering themselves as "fresh conservative voices," which largely is because none of them has ever held major elective office before, with the exception being state Sen. Lee Bright. He was elected to the state Senate in 2008.
Too much in the media spotlight
State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg: "The primary reason is that Graham's now a creature of Washington and not a South Carolina conservative. This impacts his votes and also colors what he says to the media and the Sunday shows. He's constantly working with John McCain to undermine conservatives with a gang of eight here or calling Ted Cruz a wacko bird there. He's consumed with lecturing us about how Washington works instead of educating Washington about how America works. Then again, he's been in office so long, he has no idea how America works anymore - which is the problem in the first place."
Graham record: In the non-election years leading up to now, Graham has been a regular guest on the Sunday network political talk shows, giving him a national platform to talk about Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2012, he was a guest 18 times on "Meet the Press," "Face the Nation" or other interview shows. In 2013 he was a guest 16 times, according to tabulations kept by the Washington-based political site Roll Call.
But his appearances have declined significantly for the election season of 2014, down to just two so far this year, according to Roll Call.
The Graham/McCain partnership goes back years. But the "wacko birds" comment is more connected to McCain, who was quoted as using the term in reference to other Senate Republicans questioning whether the president had the power to use lethal drones on U.S. soil. At the time, Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, were among those who had filibustered incoming CIA Director John Brennan over drone policy. Graham did side with McCain on the issue connected to the war on terror.
Richard Cash, Upstate businessman: "Sen. Graham holds himself out as an expert on defense and foreign policy, but he often gets it wrong, as in the war in Syria. Sen. Graham urged the U.S. to get involved militarily to tip the balance of power against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but this was not of vital national interest and the American public, including South Carolina, was overwhelmingly against it. Sen. Graham was so determined in his effort to intervene that he urged President Obama not to seek congressional approval for military action, but to act unilaterally. This is an unbalanced approach, reflecting poor judgment."
Graham record: Last year, Graham again teamed up with McCain in seeking U.S. military intervention in the Syrian fighting before a deal was struck that included the planned destruction of Assad's chemical weapons. Even as Graham had pressed for military use, he also voiced criticism of Obama's cautious approach in that direction. "This is the most illogical military operation I've ever seen," he told The Post and Courier in September. "You're telling the enemy weeks ahead what you're going to do and how long you're going to do it. The Israelis don't go down that road. The Israelis hit their enemy without telling them what they're going to do. That's the best way to do it, but that's behind us now."
Syria's civil war continues.
Too supportive of Obama nominees
Bill Connor, Orangeburg lawyer: "The single greatest issue I have with Sen. Graham is his support for activist Supreme Court justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. You cannot seriously call yourself a pro-life, pro-gun, anti-Obamacare conservative and support nominees like these. It's an all-encompassing decision. I do believe the Senate is to vote on presidential appointments to the Supreme Court based on whether the nominee is qualified, but Senator Graham believes 'advice and consent of the Senate' is merely limited to qualifications. I disagree with him on that stance. I will only support strict constructionist candidates for the federal bench."
Graham record: Graham has said he believes a senator's role is not to approve only judicial appointees whose ideology only matches his own, but to weed out nominees who are unfit or unqualified to serve, and that is why he voted for President Obama's appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court. While he does not agree with their ideology, he did find them qualified. "Elections have consequences," he often says.
Too supportive of government intrusion
Benjamin Dunn, Columbia lawyer: "Lindsey Graham has clearly stated his support for the National Security Agency conducting domestic surveillance on a number of occasions. While the United States can, and should, collect as much information as possible about our foreign enemies and competitors, the federal government must never be allowed to conduct wholesale intelligence/information gathering operations against its own citizens. There is simply no way that this information will not be used against those whose opinions, religious convictions, or political affiliation are considered unpopular. The Constitution requires warrants and other procedural safeguards for a very good reason. We cast these aside at our peril."
Graham record: Graham has called the NSA's data mining programs "very helpful for us when it comes to national security." Graham also noted these programs began under President George W. Bush and have adequate checks and balances as far as civil liberties. "We're not looking at you, we're looking at a group of phone numbers, not names," he said last summer. "Basically, you're telling the computer, out of this vast array of phone numbers, tell me who has been calling Yemen during the past month." Once the government has that list, it can match it up with known terrorists and get a warrant to monitor content, he said.
Too quick to spend more
Nancy Mace, Charleston businesswoman: "I believe Sen. Graham's vote to increase taxes by over $600 billion in the 'fiscal cliff' agreement and his numerous votes for added spending on things like the Wall Street bailout are among his worst as a member of Congress. The people of South Carolina work hard for their money and know better how to spend it than the career politicians and corporate welfare crowd in Washington, D.C."
Graham record: In early 2013, Graham was among the 89 senators who voted for a compromise to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, a vote that prevented automatic tax hikes for the middle class. Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation scored the vote as a $3.9 trillion tax cut over 10 years, but compared with current policy, it was a $620 billion tax increase. On the stump, he often cites his awards to prove his fiscal bona fides, including "Hero of the Taxpayer" (from Americans for Tax Reform), a "Taxpayer Friend" (from the National Taxpayer Union), and "Taxpayer Hero" (from Citizens Against Government Waste). Most recently, he voted against the federal budget deal last December because it cut retirement benefits for current and future military retirees.
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