GOP straw poll favors Bright, Graham third

A stray goat wanders in front of S.C. Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers' stump speech to Charleston County Republicans on Saturday at Legare Farm on Johns Island.

JOHNS ISLAND - Charleston County Republicans met for a barbecue stump and straw poll where incumbent U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham was a popular target of those trying to oust him.

"We have six weeks to defeat Lindsey Graham or we are going to have six more years of Lindsey Graham," said Upstate businessman Richard Cash, one of six Republicans challenging him in the June 10 GOP primary.

"He can have his arm around John Kerry for another six years if you don't get engaged and get him out of office," added Spartanburg state Sen. Lee Bright.

Bright was declared the "winner" of Saturday's straw poll, with 45 votes although the vote shouldn't be considered scientific since everyone over 18 who took part in the event was allowed to cast a vote.

Graham was campaigning in another part of the state Saturday, his spokesman said, with events scheduled in Florence, Eastover and the Upstate.

Even in his absence he came in a strong third in the poll with 38 votes, behind second-place finisher Bill Connor of Orangeburg with 42 votes. Next in line was Det Bowers, 31 votes; Nancy Mace, 11; Cash, 5; and Benjamin Dunn, 3.

Saturday's rally was held at Legare Farms and drew multiple candidates for state and local races. County Party Chairman John Steinberger said the event was an opportunity for Republicans to get glimpses of hopefuls from parts of the state they may not be familiar with.

Some attendees said they were disappointed by the stage rhetoric. Republican Terry Moore said it sounded as if several were running on hard-line issues that he considered dead and settled.

"I think they are fighting battles they can't win," he said. "They are never going to turn around abortion. They are never going to turn around same-sex marriage."

Moore agreed with the message that Washington's spending is out of control, adding that one candidate who stood out was Leon Winn, one of the two Republicans who are looking to challenge long-time 6th District Democrat Jim Clyburn.

"All the power he supposedly has, I can't see that the people from there have had their lot improved at all," he said of the predominantly poor district.

Results from other competitive GOP races Saturday included:

Lieutenant Governor race: Pat McKinney, 76 votes; Ray Moore, 38; Henry McMaster, 23; Mike Campbell, 9.

Superintendent of Education: Meka Childs, 37 votes; Elizabeth Moffly, 32; Gary Burgess, 30; Sheri Few, 29; Amy Cofield, 22; Sally Atwater, 16; Don Jordan 3; Molly Spearman, 1.

S.C. House District 110: incumbent Chip Limehouse, 68 votes; challenger Russell Guerard, 63.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551