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Lindsey Graham ramps up 2020 reelection bid with large SC leadership team

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Vice President Mike Pence campaigned for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham's 2020 reelection bid in Myrtle Beach on March 30. File/Jamie Lovegrove/Staff

COLUMBIA — As he ramps up his 2020 reelection bid, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham rolled out a sweeping statewide team Thursday featuring top officials in all of South Carolina's 46 counties and a total of 117 Republican leaders and activists.

The leadership announcement amounts to another show of force to any potential GOP primary challengers that the Seneca Republican has already got the party's nomination effectively locked up again and is looking ahead to the general election.

“The strong support reinforces and reinvigorates our efforts to advance our shared South Carolina values, grow the economy, confirm conservative judges who uphold the rule of law, and secure our borders," Graham said in a media statement.

Before Thursday, Graham had already drawn the endorsements of all Republican statewide and congressional elected officials in South Carolina, plus — perhaps even more importantly — the full-throated support of the Trump administration. Vice President Mike Pence came to Myrtle Beach and Greenville earlier this year to help Graham kick off his reelection campaign.

His new leadership team includes both South Carolina national committee members, Cindy Costa and Glenn McCall.

In several crucial GOP strongholds, county Republican chairmen are also throwing their support behind Graham, including Nate Leupp in Greenville County and Craig Caldwell in Lexington County.

The list also includes several former state GOP chairmen — Matt Moore, Karen Floyd, Katon Dawson and Barry Wynn. With Gov. Henry McMaster's earlier endorsement, Graham now has the support of every former leader of the state party dating as far back as 1991 with the exception of Chad Connelly, who is prevented from endorsing because he leads a nonprofit organization. Connelly's wife, Dana, is on the leadership team list.

Graham's campaign is also particularly focused on bolstering Republicans in the Lowcountry as he looks to aid in their efforts to take back the 1st Congressional District. Eighteen members of the leadership team are from Charleston and Beaufort counties, an all-important 2020 battleground in the state.

The early and aggressive building of support by Graham's campaign is designed to head off any repeat of 2014, when he faced a gaggle of chippy primary opponents that sought to draw him into a protracted battle. Even then, when his stock among conservative activists was lower, he ended up garnering 56 percent of the primary vote and avoided a runoff.

This time, one of his 2014 primary opponents — Benjamin Dunn of Richland County — is on Graham's leadership team.

Several little-known Republican candidates have announced intent to run against Graham this time around but none are expected to pose any credible threat to the incumbent.

Ever since Graham's viral tirade in the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in September, his once-rocky relationship with conservative activists in his home state has grown drastically warmer. His role as one of President Donald Trump's most prominent congressional allies has also boosted his standing among many Republican voters.

On the flip side, Graham's friendship with Trump has made him a top target of animosity from Democrats both in South Carolina and around the country.

Two Democrats so far have filed to run against Graham: former S.C. Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison and economist Gloria Bromell Tinubu.

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A well-connected Democratic operative, Harrison raised $1.5 million in his first full fundraising quarter in the race, a record haul for a Democratic Senate candidate in the historically Republican-controlled state.

Graham has set personal fundraising records himself, amassing one of the largest Senate war chests in the country with almost $6.5 million in the bank as he pursues his fourth term in office.

The full list of Graham's leadership team (names are grouped by location):

  • Melinda Gray, Abbeville
  • Bob Brookshire, Aiken
  • Mayor Rick Osbon, Aiken
  • KT Ruthven, Aiken
  • Darryl Ables, Aiken
  • Councilman Andrew Siders, Aiken
  • Micky Scott, Allendale
  • Susan Aiken, Anderson
  • Rosanne Kinley, Anderson
  • Mary McAbee, Anderson
  • Kay Maxwell, Bamberg
  • Councilman Ben Kinlaw, Barnwell
  • Peggy Kinlaw, Barnwell
  • Mary Amonitti, Beaufort
  • Bonnie Canova, Beaufort
  • Beth Grace, Beaufort
  • Joanie Heyward, Beaufort
  • Former S.C. Superintendent of Education Barbara Nielson, Beaufort
  • Pat Stanton, Beaufort
  • James Wedgeworth, Beaufort
  • Sherri Zedd, Beaufort
  • Jim Davis, Berkeley
  • Terri Hallman, Berkeley
  • Doug Doster, Calhoun
  • Larry Jordan, Calhoun
  • Anne Badgeley, Charleston
  • Cindy Costa, Charleston
  • Kelvin Curtis, Charleston
  • Dr. Mark Hartley, Charleston
  • Joanne Jones, Charleston
  • Joann Knapp, Charleston
  • Larry Kobrovsky, Charleston
  • Cindy Mosteller, Charleston
  • Mason Sullivan, Charleston
  • Eddie Taylor, Charleston
  • Brenda Neal, Cherokee
  • Robin Reed, Cherokee
  • Former S.C. Rep. Greg Delleney, Chester
  • Drew Johnson, Chester
  • Sandra Stroman, Chester
  • Doug Rorie, Chesterfield
  • Richard Zuendt, Chesterfield
  • Moye Graham, Clarendon
  • Mary Ann Cannady, Colleton
  • JD Chaplin, Darlington
  • Mayor Mel Pennington, Darlington
  • Haywood Proctor, Dillon
  • Former S.C. Treasurer Converse Chellis, Dorchester
  • Former County Councilwoman Carroll Duncan, Dorchester
  • Richard Pendarvis, Edgefield
  • Randy Bright, Fairfield
  • Stephanie Rawlinson, Florence
  • Betty Dowling, Florence
  • Mike Page, Florence
  • Karol Anderson, Georgetown
  • Stephen Brown, Greenville
  • Linda Garner, Greenville
  • Chad Groover, Greenville
  • Warren Mowry, Greenville
  • Lisa Van Riper, Greenville
  • Mayor Knox White, Greenville
  • Suzette Jordan, Greenville
  • Nate Leupp, Greenville
  • Jo Ann Burroughs, Greenwood
  • Norma Curtis, Greenwood
  • Dickie Elliott, Hampton
  • Susan Chapman, Horry
  • Dreama Perdue, Horry
  • Cleo Steele, Horry
  • Duane Swygert, Jasper
  • Beth Ford, Kershaw
  • Beth Kelly, Kershaw
  • Sandy McGarry, Lancaster
  • Bob Ziembicki, Lancaster
  • Brenda Stewart, Laurens
  • Davis McClam, Lee
  • Craig Caldwell, Lexington
  • Dr. Kizzi Gibson, Lexington
  • Mayor Steve MacDougall, Lexington
  • Matt Moore, Lexington
  • Lisa Nine, Lexington
  • Emory Roberts, Lexington
  • Wilma Storey, Lexington
  • Rob Watts, Lexington
  • Jeanne Bassett, Marion
  • Councilman Verd Odom, Marlboro
  • Ruth Obermeyer, McCormick
  • Charm Altman, Newberry
  • Danaelly, Newberry
  • Former Congressman Gresham Barrett, Oconee
  • Darryl Broome, Oconee
  • Bill Jerome, Oconee
  • Harold Donnelly, Orangeburg
  • Ellen Mclellan, Pickens
  • Jeffery Willis, Pickens
  • Mary Jean Baxley, Richland
  • Katon Dawson, Richland
  • Tony Denny, Richland
  • Bill Dukes, Richland
  • Benjamin Dunn, Richland
  • Tyson Grinstead, Richland
  • Shell Suber, Richland
  • Eaddy Roe Willard, Richland
  • Brenda Bedenbaugh, Saluda
  • Former Councilwoman Karen Floyd, Spartanburg
  • Rep. Max Hyde, Spartanburg
  • Alexia Newman, Spartanburg
  • Former Rep. Doug Smith, Spartanburg
  • Barry Wynn, Spartanburg
  • Shery Smith, Sumter
  • Former Clerk of Court Freddie Gault, Union
  • Ida Martin, Williamsburg
  • Kathy Bigham, York
  • Rep. Bruce Bryant, York
  • Glenn McCall, York
  • Joe St. John, York
  • Sam Vetter, York

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.

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