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South Carolina Primary: Lindsey Graham Aims To Fend Off Tea Party Challengers

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is trying to fend off six tea party challengers who say he's not conservative enough for this Republican-heavy state and may have to fight through a primary runoff if he can't win 50 percent of the vote Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Graham's fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott is a strong favorite to win his primary, and a victory could set up South Carolina's first-ever general U.S. Senate election between two black candidates.

Scott was appointed to the seat in 2012 after Jim DeMint stepped down, and the election winner will serve the remainder of DeMint's term. Scott is considered a strong favorite against Randall Young, a Greenville man who has done no visible campaigning.

As for Graham, the senator has raised more than $7 million for his campaign, far more than any of his opponents. But with polls showing his support hovering around 50 percent, he may not get more than half the vote, which he needs to win outright. If he gets less than 50 percent, he'll face the second-place finisher in a runoff June 24.

Those arrayed against Graham include state Sen. Lee Bright, Columbia pastor Det Bowers, Upstate businessman Richard Cash and Charleston-area businesswoman Nancy Mace, the first female cadet graduate from The Citadel, South Carolina's military college. Orangeburg County attorney Bill Connor and Columbia lawyer Benjamin Dunn were also seeking the nomination.

The challengers have hammered away at Graham, saying he's not conservative enough for South Carolina.

That didn't matter to Ben Lister, a 48-year-old financial planner from Greenville who voted for the senator.

"I know that some people are saying he should be more conservative, but what does that mean?" Lister asked. "I want a politician who actually thinks about the issues instead of going along with the crowd."

The Democrats had two primaries of their own, though it's widely expected that the Senate seats will remain in the GOP's hands.

State Sen. Brad Hutto faced businessman Jay Stamper for the nomination for Graham's seat.

Meanwhile, Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson, York County Councilman Sidney Moore and Myrtle Beach attorney Harry Pavilack were vying for the party nomination for Scott's seat. Both Dickerson and Moore are black, and, should either one be nominated to face Scott, that would be South Carolina's first-ever U.S. Senate general election between two black candidates.

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