Nancy Mace to announce primary challenge against Lindsey Graham

W. James Antle III | Managing Editor

The first woman to graduate from the Citadel is planning to challenge South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham in the Republican primary next year.

Charleston businesswoman Nancy Mace will head to Goose Creek Saturday to announce her Senate campaign, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

“This isn’t about one senator,” Mace told TheDCNF. “The only way to change Washington is to change who we send to Washington.”

“Washington is out of touch,” she added. “Voters are frustrated. They’re looking for someone authentic.”

In a June fundraising email, the Senate Conservatives Fund listed Graham as one of three Republican senators the group would support a primary campaign against if “strong, conservative challengers emerge.”

Mace, who has written articles for The Daily Caller, is a Fort Bragg native who graduated from South Carolina’s military college in 1999, becoming the first woman graduate since the Citadel was founded in 1842. She later wrote a memoir of her experience at the school and runs a public relations firm in Charleston.

Last year, Club for Growth president Chris Chocola told a Christian Science Monitor event that Graham was a potential target.

“If you’re looking to the horizon of 2014,” Chocola said, “the sun may rise over South Carolina.”

South Carolina Republican state Sen. Tom Davis predicted to TheDCNF last year that “someone will challenge Lindsey Graham.”

After Graham spoke out in support of the National Security Agency’s data collection practices under the Obama administration, Mace wrote a scathing post at the conservative blog RedState chastising the senator.

“In Senator Graham’s world, the Constitution doesn’t exist,” she wrote. “In Senator Graham’s world, the entire Bill of Rights is negotiable.”

Mace’s phrasing is a play on Graham’s criticism of Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul in the wake of the NSA leaks: “[I]n Rand Paul’s world, you have almost no defense against terrorists.”

“In Senator Graham’s world, arming al-Qaeda in Syria is a good idea,” Mace retorted.

When Paul ran ads against several swing state Democratic senators who voted against his proposal to stop foreign aid to Egypt, Pakistan and Libya, Graham came to their aid. Graham joined West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in a conference call defending his vote.

“I think the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose giving tax dollars to countries that hate our culture, burn our flag and train terrorists,” Mace told TheDCNF.

Mace said that Graham refers to his Republican critics as being “to the left of Obama, but he has has been with Obama on many issues.” She pointed to the Gang of Eight immigration bill — Graham’s harshest critics nickname him “Grahamnesty” — along with the Troubled Assets Relief Program bailout, cap and trade and his votes to confirm Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

Mace argued that justices in the mold of these Obama appointments “upheld Obamacare,” the controversial federal health care reform law she would like to defund.

Last year, Graham distanced himself from the Americans for Tax Reform pledge against tax increases, causing the group’s leader Grover Norquist to brand him “not a thought leader in the Republican Party.”

The New York Times quoted Graham saying he was willing to accept higher tax revenues to prevent cuts in defense spending, although his office later clarified that he was referring only to closing tax loopholes.

With more than $6.3 million in cash on hand, Graham will be a formidable opponent for newcomer Mace. The two-term senator easily turned back a primary challenge from former Republican National Committeeman Buddy Witherspoon in 2008.

South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy told an interviewer earlier this year, “Lindsey Graham will be fine.”

“He’s not in trouble,” Gowdy said. “He’s a better lawyer than I am. He’s more persuasive than I am.”

The South Carolina Republican primary is scheduled for June 2014.

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