FORT MILL TOWNSHIP — Tea party members and other S.C. conservatives who want to oust U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham have taken their campaign to Fort Mill.
Graham’s opponents have placed hundreds of yellow signs with the phrase “Lose Lindsey” printed in red letters throughout the area, including along Hwy. 160, the township’s main road. Graham faces a Republican party primary challenge from at least two candidates so far.
Elgin resident Jeff Mattox, who helps make and distribute the signs, compared the movement to when former U.S. Rep. John Spratt was challenged by then S.C. Sen. Mick Mulvaney (R-Indian Land) in 2010. Many residents, opposed to the Affordable Care Act Spratt helped pass, posted red and yellow “Sack Spratt” signs throughout the 5th Congressional District. Mulvaney won in a landslide.
“It’s the grassroots that will take back America,” Mattox said. “We are going to retire Graham and send a shock wave across the nation that it can be done.”
Mattox referenced the 29 points outlined by the anti-Graham wing of the GOP, including an indictment of Graham’s support for an immigration bill in June that provides amnesty to undocumented immigrants.
“There are many reasons to rid our state of Lindsey and amnesty is one on the main points,” he said.
“He has pushed amnesty his entire career. He has promised closed boarders and those have all been broken. We did amnesty during Reagan and look where we are now? Until our boarders are secure there can be no talk about amnesty. It is through the compromise between both parties that our immigration is such a disaster. The further left the Democrats go, Lindsey and the establishment GOP is sure to be moving in the same direction.”
Graham believes undocumented immigrants should have to register with the government and pay fines and taxes on money they earn in the U.S., said Tate Zeigler, campaign spokesman for Graham.
“What we have today is de-facto amnesty,” Zeigler said. “Illegal immigrants are living under their own rules – not ours – and aren’t forced to do anything like register with the government, pay taxes and learn English. That has to change, which is why Senator Graham has supported legislation to crack down on illegal immigration and secure our border.”
Mattox said “Lose Lindsey” supporters are also unhappy with Graham’s support of arming al-Qaida fighters with the Syrian rebels trying to topple that country’s dictatorship.
“American people do not want another war,” Mattox said.
Zeigler said Graham believes America needs to continue its military, political and economic relationships with countries in the Middle East.
“Senator Graham firmly believes that stability in the Middle East is vital to protecting our national security interests here at home, as well as our greatest ally in the region – Israel. We need a strong America to protect our vital national interests,” he said. “We must remain ever vigilant against terrorism and must take the necessary steps to ensure we prevent another 9/11 attack on our homeland.”
Greenville resident Joshua Cook, a volunteer with the “Lose Lindsey” campaign, said supporters are ready for a new face in the U.S. Senate.
“It’s about wanting something better for the state of South Carolina and finding someone who will actually listen to the people,” Cook said. “We’re working class people that want to make a difference.”
In a poll conducted at Winthrop University in October, Graham’s approval rating dropped among Republicans and those independents who lean toward the GOP to 45.2 percent. The February poll had his approval rating at 71.6 percent.
Among registered voters, the approval rating is 37.4 percent. The poll consisted of survey results from 887 South Carolina residents and was conducted Oct. 19-27.
However, these results may not reflect voters’ views when primary is held in the spring, said Winthrop political science professor Adolphus Belk.
“A lot of things can happen (between now and the primary),” he said.
Cook works with tea party leaders throughout the state to distribute the signs. He said he hopes to distribute thousands of signs and have them placed at every major intersection in the state leading up to the next election.
Going up against Graham’s well-funded campaign, Cook said he and other residents are mostly relying on word of mouth, YouTube videos and the signs to spread their message.
“We are trying to find creative ways to get the message out,” Cook said. “It’s a grassroots effort.”
While the signs and other methods “Lose Lindsey” supporters are using may spread their message, it will take a major effort to replace Graham, Belk said.
“It is very difficult to defeat an incumbent office holder,” he said. “People like Graham have very high name recognition and are known across the state.”
Belk said it will be difficult for a grassroots campaign to stand against Graham’s ability to raise tremendous large of money.
As of June 30, Graham had more than $6,300,000 on hand, with more than $1 million in contributions from individuals, according to the Federal Elections Commission. That kind of war chest can “make current office holders intimidating to potential challengers,” Belk said.
However, the movement continues to draw residents, with more signs being made daily, Elgin resident Larry Risvold said.
Risvold and Mattox are members of the Kershaw County Patriots and operate the Facebook page “Lose Lindsey Larry and Jeff’s Excellent Adventure,” in which they post “Lose Lindsey” updates, videos and photos. Their “Red and Yellow rap” video amassed more than 12,000 views in one day on YouTube.
Both Risvold and Mattox will be supporting Lee Bright for Senator along with other members of the Kershaw County Patriots.
“Bright truly believes in bringing the constitution back to the people,” Risvold said.
Mattox said Bright has a record of fighting for the constitution and for “our God given rights,” referencing Bright’s support of the Constitutional Carry Amendment and pro-life stance.
Easley businessman Richard Cash, another candidate, said hopes he can oust Graham by focusing more attention on his website, replace-lindsey.com.
“It’s time for a change,” Cash said. “We want someone who represents South Carolina.”
As of June 30, Cash had $248,396 on hand, according to the Federal Elections Commission.
Belk said the “Lose Lindsey” supporters will have to raise a lot more money to run a successful campaign.
Zeigler said Graham is ready for the upcoming election.
“Senator Graham is a conservative fighter for South Carolina who gets things done,” he said. “He’s looking forward to a spirited campaign where he can take his record of conservative leadership directly to the voters of South Carolina.”