COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Four challengers to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham signed an agreement that if any of them make a runoff against the Republican incumbent, the other three will throw their support behind the challenger.
Roebuck Sen. Lee Bright, Anderson businessman Richard Cash and Orangeburg attorney Bill Connor were expected Thursday at the Statehouse, but were joined by former Spartanburg police officer Dave Feliciano, who has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission but not raised any money.
All four men signed papers vowing to support any challenger that makes it to a runoff with Graham after the June 10 primary. Graham has to get at least 50 percent of the vote to win the nomination outright.
A recent Winthrop University poll showed Graham with a large lead, but not quite 50 percent. However, the same poll showed one-third of likely Republican voters polled have not made up their minds, and the remaining challengers were in single digits. Graham has more than $7.5 million in his campaign accounts while none of his challengers has more than $300,000.
Cash pointed out that Graham’s support had dipped from the last Winthrop poll. He said signing the agreement Thursday just puts in writing what he has said all along - that South Carolina will be better with a more conservative senator than Graham.
All six candidates in that Senate race agree that Graham’s decision to support immigration reform and endorse President Barack Obama’s nominations for U.S. Supreme Court justices show he is not conservative enough to properly represent South Carolina.
“I know the positions these other guys are taking and I support them,” Connor said.
Bright, who attended the news conference just briefly before going back inside where the state Senate was meeting, echoed those sentiments. “I can gladly stand with these other men,” he said.
All six candidates were invited to attend, but Lowcountry businesswoman Nancy Mace decided not to sign the pledge.
“It would be a disservice to my supporters if I were to ever even think about losing, let alone talk about it. I am in this to win,” Mace said in a statement released by her campaign.
The sixth announced candidate, Columbia pastor Det Bowers, did not return a message on Thursday.