Ever since South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdyannounced in January he would not seek re-election in the fall, everyone in his district with a political bone in their body seems eager to replace him.
On Wednesday, former state Sen. Lee Bright, a Republican, and attorney Eric Graben, a Democrat, became the 11th Republican and sixth Democratic candidates, respectively, to declare campaigns to fill the void Gowdy is leaving in South Carolina’s 4th District, The Greenville News reported.
The 17 hopefuls began filing campaign paperwork Thursday. Anyone else who wants to jump into the race has a two-week window to file.
Bright was one of the most conservative members of South Carolina’s state Senate before his lost his seat in 2016 after two terms. He sponsored bills that would have forced transgender people to use bathrooms matching their sexual assignment at birth and required South Carolina law enforcement officials to conduct regular and close oversight of foreign refugees in the state. He was one of only three state senators to vote to keep the Confederate flag flying on Statehouse grounds.
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Bright challenged Sen. Lindsey Graham for South Carolina’s Republican Senate nomination in 2014, finishing second — but 41 points behind the incumbent.
“South Carolina voters are sick and tired of radical Leftists and establishment Republicans constantly eroding our rights,” Bright said in a statement Thursday. “In the last presidential election, voters sent a clear message that they want to drain the swamp, but too many in Congress are standing in the way of this mandate. It is no longer good enough to simply have a Republican majority. We need a majority of true conservatives in Congress to support President Trump’s agenda.”
Graben, a corporate attorney, chaired the Greenville County Democratic Party from 2012 to 2016.
He’s running on a campaign to protect and bolster the 2010 health care overhaul from Republican repeal efforts; a path to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients; “common sense measures to keep guns out of the hands of bad guys and the mentally ill”; and a promise to promote bipartisan cooperation, he said in a statement Thursday.
“America is more divided now than it has been at any time since the Vietnam War. We need to get on one team again. We need leaders who use their heads and their hearts, not heat and anger,” Graben said. “We need to stand up for what is right, but sit down with our brothers and sisters across the aisle, who love America as much as we do, and get America’s business done.”
The primary for South Carolina’s 4th District is June 12.