Sen. Lindsey Graham chats with supporters at River Rat Brewery. Photo by Sean Rayford
South Carolina’s primary elections are Tuesday, June 10. And as is often the case in South Carolina, many important seats will go uncontested. For example, neither Republican Gov. Nikki Haley nor her Democratic challenger, Vincent Sheheen, has a primary opponent.
But there are still some pretty interesting choices to be made come Tuesday. Here, we offer a guide to some of the more important races on the ballot.
U.S. Senate (expired term)
The real question here is whether Sen. Lindsey Graham will fail to earn at least 50 percent of the vote in the Republican primary and be forced into a runoff — and if so, with whom. If that happens, many of Graham’s GOP challengers have signed a pledge saying they’ll support whichever one of them ends up in the runoff.
Det Bowers (GOP)
Bowers, a Columbia pastor, bills himself as a family-values candidate. He vows to shrink the size of government and vote against judges who support Roe v. Wade.
Lee Bright (GOP)
Firebrand S.C. Sen. Lee Bright considers Graham a hyperinterventionist who’s pushing the country toward war in Syria. He opposes a path to amnesty for illegal immigrants, saying, “These people are going to come here and vote Democrat and dilute the vote of the Republican Party.” In the state Legislature, he’s worked to broaden gun rights and limit abortion rights, and introduced a bill to look into whether the state should mint its own currency. He blames social programs for many of the country’s ills.
Richard Cash (GOP)
Businessman Cash believes the country is on an immoral path toward socialism. He opposes Graham’s tendency to negotiate with Democrats and says Graham’s increased the federal debt. Like Graham, though, he says, “Islamic terrorism is the chief immediate threat to our national security,” adding “followed by authoritarian regimes left over from communism.”
Bill Connor (GOP)
Connor, an Afghan veteran, opposes not just illegal but legal immigration, calling them both “out of control.” He says, “Our nation was founded on biblical principles” and “this whole notion of pushing Christianity out of the military, of radicalizing the military, has got to stop.” He would abolish the U.S. Department of Education, drastically reduce the Department of Labor and slash the size of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Benjamin Dunn (GOP)
Dunn, also an Afghan veteran, says “Lindsey Graham’s desire to commit U.S. forces in Syria is nonsensical and dangerous.” Still, he comes off as slightly more moderate than his fellow challengers. He’d like to expand legal immigration and guestworker programs, while clamping down on illegal immigration.
Lindsey Graham (GOP)
Despite the challengers he faces, Graham has refused to kowtow to the tea party, saying his ability to actually win elections is crucial to the Republican Party. The country’s “war with radical Islam” is foremost in his foreign policy mind; on domestic issues, he puts entitlement reform atop the list, including saving Medicare. He’s vowed to end Obamacare.
Nancy Mace (GOP)
Mace, a political consultant, favors major tax reform — implementing a consumption-based tax policy like FairTax or a flat tax, and slashing personal and corporate income taxes. She also favors term limits.
Brad Hutto (Dem)
State Sen. Brad Hutto is the State House insider selected by the party to throw himself on the pyre of Lindsey Graham — or so the speculation goes. The state Democratic Party has actually taken the unusual step of endorsing Hutto over candidate Jay Stamper. Hutto supports raising the minimum wage, investing in alternative energy and maintaining abortion rights. “Instead of obsessing over international politics, Brad will work to ensure that South Carolina workers are properly trained and that the business environment is attractive for job creators,” his campaign website reads.
Jay Stamper (Dem)
Stamper, a recent Washington State import, claims it’s his positions on issues that get him glares from the party establishment. “I support marriage equality,” Stamper said at a recent forum. “I support choice. I support gun reform, common sense gun reform. That puts me at odds with the Democratic majority in South Carolina, which believes you have to act like Republicans to win elections.” But those party insiders will tell you it’s Stamper’s felony record — he pleaded guilty to three securities-related charges in Nevada — and political prank-filled past that make him the black sheep.
The lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate, heads up the Office on Aging, and becomes governor if the governor can’t perform his or her duties. Following a recent change to the state constitution, this is the last time the voters of South Carolina will elect a lieutenant governor on a separate ticket from the governor. Whoever wins the GOP primary will face state Democratic Rep. Bakari Sellers in November.
Mike Campbell (GOP)
The son of former Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell, this business owner — he’s owned Wendy’s fast food franchises, among other things — has pitched his campaign toward the seniors the office of lieutenant governor is supposed to serve. As for his endorsements, well, he has the approval of conservative guru Mike Huckabee — and of musician Pat Boone, whose conservative 60 Plus Association gave the nod to Campbell’s campaign.
Pat McKinney (GOP)
This Lowcountry developer, an ally of Gov. Nikki Haley, jumped in the race a full six months ahead of his opponents, and has raised the most money. His platform includes lots of tax-cutting for individuals and businesses, and reducing government red tape, which has won him various business and political endorsements.
Henry McMaster (GOP)
He was Ronald Reagan’s U.S. attorney for South Carolina. He was the state attorney general. He was a widely endorsed GOP primary candidate for governor in 2010 — who, after he was beaten by Nikki Haley, embraced her candidacy. Why he now wants to be lieutenant governor — a largely powerless office — is anybody’s guess. Maybe he figures Haley will be called to a higher office before finishing out her next term.
E. Ray Moore (GOP)
Moore is a pastor and cofounder of the Exodus Mandate, “a Christian ministry to encourage and assist Christian families to leave Pharaoh’s school system (i.e. government schools) for the Promised Land of Christian schools or home schooling.” So it should come as no surprise that he’s running a right-wing values campaign committed to “restoring pro-life, pro-family, pro-private, Christian, and home education values.” But that’s not all: Moore also supports “pro-sound money principles” like a return to the gold standard.
Other Races to Watch
U.S. Senate (unexpired term): In an election to find out who’ll serve out the rest of his term, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who was appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley in 2012 to fill Jim DeMint’s seat, faces a GOP primary challenge from Randall Young. Young seems to have vanished after filing his paperwork — no news outlet has managed to get in touch with him, and the state Republican Party hasn’t heard from him. “Randall Young has not communicated with any party leaders despite our efforts to reach him,” GOP Chairman Matt Moore told the Post and Courier. “We can’t find him.” Three Democrats will face off for their party’s nomination in the race: Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson; former York County Councilman Sidney Moore; attorney Harry Pavilack.
U.S. House District 2: U.S. Rep Joe Wilson faces a challenge from Eddie McCain, a Jim DeMint-style libertarian running as a Republican for the first time. Meanwhile, Ed Greenleaf and Phil Black will meet in the Democratic primary. Black, who doesn’t actually consider himself a Democrat, wants to eliminate the Federal Reserve and return to the gold standard. Greenleaf wants to create more jobs along the I-20 corridor and improve veterans services.
Adjutant General: Incumbent Adjutant General Bob Livingston faces a GOP primary challenge from James Breazeale. This is likely the last time voters will elect an adjutant general, as a referendum is set for the November ballot to make the position an appointed one.
Agriculture Commissioner: Joe Farmer (yes, really), who refuses to accept campaign contributions, is challenging incumbent commissioner and former dairy farmer Hugh Weathers in the GOP primary.
State Treasurer: GOP State Treasurer Curtis Loftis faces a primary challenge from Brian Adams, who knocks Loftis’ management of the office.
S.C. District 79 (Richland): Popular Democratic state Rep. Mia McLeod faces a primary challenge from Vannie Williams Jr.
S.C. District 96 (Lexington): Republican Rep. Kit Spires faces a challenge from Perry Finch.
U.S. House District 6: Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn faces a challenge from Karen Smith, who’s running as a Democrat but opposes Obamacare and describes herself as a tea partier, according to the Post and Courier. Republicans Anthony Culler and Leon Winn face each other in the GOP primary.
Richland County Treasurer: David Adams, the incumbent, will face Joe McEachern II in a Democratic primary.
Lexington County Council: Lexington County Councilman Bill Banning faces a challenge from Billy Oswald and Ned Tolar over his support for a county sales tax hike to pay for transportation projects.