June 11, 2008 in Nation/World

Graham glides to S.C. victory

Jim Davenport Associated Press
 
The Spokesman-Review photo

Graham
(Full-size photo)

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Sen. Lindsey Graham easily won his primary Tuesday against a fellow Republican who accused him of being too liberal for South Carolina and hammered his ties to John McCain.

In Virginia, a county official beat a former congresswoman in the bitter Democratic contest for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Davis.

And in Maine, Democrats chose Rep. Tom Allen over political newcomer Tom Ledue in a U.S. Senate primary.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting in South Carolina, Graham had 67 percent of the vote, compared with 33 percent for challenger Buddy Witherspoon, according to unofficial tallies.

“Principled compromise is the lifeblood of democracy and those who seek principled compromise advancing their state and their nation are doing what the nation wants,” Graham said in his victory speech.

Witherspoon, a retired orthodontist and former Republican National Committee member, criticized the one-term incumbent Graham as too liberal for conservative South Carolina. He also took heat from potential Democratic challengers on a failed illegal immigration measure he and McCain worked on.

Attorney Michael Cone and engineer Bob Conley were seeking the Democratic Party’s nod to run for Graham’s seat Tuesday. That race was too close to call with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

Graham’s immigration measure, which would have provided a path to citizenship, drew derision last year at the state GOP convention, and Cone and Conley both called the plan amnesty for illegal immigrants.

But Graham, an Air Force Reserve colonel who has served in Iraq, had name recognition and a huge financial advantage. McCain won the January primary in South Carolina and Graham used his endorsement in television ads.

Farther north, Democrats vied for the chance to pick up a seat in Virginia’s 11th Congressional District, where Republican moderate Davis is retiring after nearly 14 years. He represents suburbs in and around the Capital Beltway, including much of Fairfax County, the wealthiest in the nation.

The two leading Democratic candidates were longtime rivals. Gerry Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, beat former Rep. Leslie Byrne, who held the seat for one term before losing it to Davis in the Republicans’ 1994 takeover of Congress.

“It was a hard battle, there were outside interest groups that came in and you can see tonight that that was a big turnoff,” Connolly said.

In November, Connolly will face Republican Keith Fimian, a businessman making his first run for office.

In Georgia, a political consultant and a national guardsman serving in Iraq were in a runoff to replace a state lawmaker facing prison time for money laundering. The House seat was vacated by Ron Sailor, who pleaded guilty to laundering $375,000 in drug money for an undercover agent posing as a drug dealer.

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