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Sen. Graham challenger kicks off campaign for GOP primary; says SC needs more conservative rep

A challenger for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham's seat said Tuesday that he is challenging the GOP incumbent because South Carolina needs more conservative representation and someone who isn't so friendly with Democrats.

"I think it's time that South Carolina had somebody to rep South Carolina and more of the conservative values that we hold versus Barack Obama's or (Sen.) John McCain's," State Sen. Lee Bright said in a conference calling announcing his campaign.

Bright, of Roebuck, was first elected to the state Senate in 2008, and promoted his conservative credentials.

In each of his three legislative terms, he has been a sponsor of the "Life Begins at Conception Act" and has sponsored a resolution calling for South Carolina to refuse any money from the federal economic stimulus bill passed at the start of the Great Recession.

Graham, Bright said, is too friendly with Senate Democrats and spends too much time on international affairs and should be focused more on domestic issues like border security.

Graham traveled with fellow Republican McCain to Egypt last week to warn that the country may be in for prolonged violence without a dialogue between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.

"I would argue that Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham are leading to more insecurity in that region, not less," Bright told The Associated Press in an interview after his announcement. "They are outsiders, trying to come in and tell them how to operate internal affairs in their country. And from what I can tell, they have done nothing but assist the Muslim Brotherhood, which I would not list as one of our top allies."

Graham and McCain, R-Ariz., met with army officers, interim political leaders, youth groups and allies of Egypt's ousted and now imprisoned president, Mohammed Morsi, at the behest of President Obama but did not speak for the administration.

Two other candidates are already in the GOP race to replace Graham, who was electede in 2002 after Strom Thurmond stepped aside. Earlier this month, Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from The Citadel, announced, and Anderson businessman Richard Cash is also in the race.

Bright's potential campaign has been percolating for months. He spent the winter touring the state, holding public hearings for his bill eliminating the need for a permit to carry a gun in public. He also said Graham's criticism of a filibuster by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a darling of tea party and other conservative Republicans, nearly pushed him over the edge and was the first guest of Glenn Beck as the talk show host is auditioning people to beat Graham in 2014.

Graham has more than $6 million in his campaign account. Bright has no fundraising reports on file with the Federal Election Commission.

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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