U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham says the Lexington County Republican Party Executive Committee’s statement to censure him because of his positions on TARP funds, cap and trade and other issues was authored by Ron Paul supporters. Now a former chair of the Lexington county party who also served as state GOP chair says he will move to negate the resolution.
We caught up with Graham Tuesday as he was speaking to a group of foresters near Columbia about cap and trade.
“You know, it’s a free country,” says Graham. “But the 13 people who voted for that were at least led by Ron Paul supporters. They didn’t support me the last time and they won’t support me the next time. I think my conservatism plays well. I won 68 percent of the vote in Lexington County. I seek conservative solutions but I also believe in trying to find common ground so I’m not going to change my politics.”
Graham says contrary to criticism, he is being a responsible republican. “I’m fighting to keep a sixth of our population from being taking over by the Obama health care plan,” he says. “I think it’s misplaced priorities. I think the party needs to focus on signing up more voters to stop this health care bill.”
Graham says one of his focuses is growing the Republican Party. He says if there had been one more Republican voter in the U.S. Senate, the Democratic health care reform bill would have been stopped. “The health care bill could have been stopped,” he says. “I’m focusing on trying to re-energize the party and grow it. Sometimes people disagree with me and that’s perfectly fine. I voted for TARP because I thought we were going to go into a depression if we didn’t do something quickly. I voted against TARP II because it went too far. I’m comfortable with me and my style of politics and the people of South Carolina seem to be comfortable also. But there’s an element within the party, an element of Ron Paul supporters, whom I respect, but frankly I don’t adhere to their way of governing.”
Lexington Party Chair Rich Bolen, who signed the censure, says it shows the reach of the tea party movement. The resolution states that Graham has “repeatedly demonstrated contempt and belligerence toward members of the Republican Party who support freedom and a Constitutional government…”
Meanwhile, four former Lexington County Republican Chairmen sent a letter to Bolen Tuesday, criticizing the censure by the current Executive Committee. It reads: “We are…very discouraged about what a handful of members of the committee were allowed to do in the name of the Lexington County Republican Party.”
The former party chairs(Scott Malyerck, Katrina Shealy, Butch Wallace, and Lyman Whitehead) complain that 13 people were trying to speak for the county’s 23,000 Republicans who voted in the 2008 primary.
Malyerck, who also served as director of the South Carolina GOP, says he will pursue action at the next county meeting to negate the censure. “For a wild band of 13 individuals to make this pronouncement is unfair to Senator Graham, unfair to the county party and unfair to the thousands and thousands of people who voted for Senator Graham,” says Malyerck. “It is very disappointing to see that being allowed to happen.”
Malyerck assert that for something as serious as a censure, the resolution should have been added to the agenda and sent out in advance, and every member of the committee should have been given a chance to participate in the process. “If you’re voting on how many pencils to buy for the party office, that’s one thing,” says Malyerck. “But if you’re voting to censure a senator that’s quite another.”
Malyerck says a small group should not be allowed to cast an opinion about Graham when they’re not representative of the county. “When you hear or read about the Lexington County Republican Party, one of the top three Repubican parties in the state, vote to censure, you assume that there are tons of people behind this,” says Malyerck. “But in reality, there are 13 voters who showed up and voted, and maybe they had planned this a month ahead of time to come and do this, a surprise ambush.”
Bolen says a qorum was present for the executive committee meeting to make Monday’s vote official. He says the censure was added to the regular agenda only after the meeting began.