COLOMBIA, S.C. – A former Democratic state legislator is trying to narrow the gap in the race to succeed retiring nonagenarian Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., closing in with campaign contributions if not name recognition.
Former college president and state appeals court judge Alex Sanders has raised more than $1.1 million in his four-month-old Senate campaign, narrowing the money race against Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has raised $1.6 million in the past six months.
Final numbers are due to the Federal Elections Commission at the end of the month. Graham's campaign director Trey Walker said his filings will show $2 million cash on hand. Nearly $400,000 of that money comes from political action committees. Another $432,000 came from his old House campaign account.
Sanders has more than $1 million in reserve, according to records being prepared for the FEC. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has given him $16,500.
"We're going to be financially competitive," said Sanders' campaign director Chad Clanton. "We know we're the underdogs. Lindsey Graham is backed by the Washington big dogs. But Lindsey Graham and his Washington friends better look over their shoulders because the Alex Sanders train is coming. We're going to win this race the old-fashion way. We're going to earn it."
Sanders got in the race late after several more high profile candidates decided against running. Graham has been raising money for almost two years.
"Alex appears to be well on his way. But he has got to continue doing it," said Francis Marion University political science professor Neal Thigpen. "One four-month period doesn't mean he can raise as much as Graham."
Almost all of Sanders' contributors were from South Carolina. A little more than three-quarters of Graham's donors were in-state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.