February 4th, 2013
(CNN) - South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a maverick Republican hailing from a conservative state, has long been considered vulnerable to a primary challenge in 2014.
Several prominent names in Palmetto State GOP politics have passed on taking on Graham next year, but it now appears he may have a serious opponent.
Saying that Graham has betrayed a number of conservative principles, state Sen. Lee Bright told CNN Monday that he is still in the process of making a decision, but the chances of him entering the Senate race are "definitely better than 50 percent."
"I was a huge fan of Lindsey's for the six years he was in Congress," Bright said in a phone interview. "Since he got into the Senate he has gone off the reservation in terms of the conservative ideals I believe in. I don't feel like that can go unchallenged."
Bright, who has represented Spartanburg in the state Senate for four years, called himself a "liberty-minded candidate" with a "bulletproof voting record." He has been regularly backed by the South Carolina Club for Growth since his first election in 2008.
His conservative posture has also been the subject of some criticism, especially when he proposed in 2011 that South Carolina examine creating its own currency.
"If folks lose faith in the dollar, we need to have some kind of backup," he said at the time.
Though he said he still has a few months to make up his mind, he said he has received encouragement from conservative groups inside and outside the state to take on Graham.
Bright's intentions were first reported Monday by FITSNews.com, a conservative web site in Columbia. In December, the Charleston Post and Courier reported that Bright was calling potential donors about a possible run.
"There is a long list people who I wanted to have a chat before I do anything official, and I want top honor that," he said when pressed on when he will make an announcement.
At the same time, he sounded like a candidate-in-waiting.
"Right now it's a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party, and I think the lines are clearly drawn," Bright said. "You have people like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul on one side, and people like Graham and Mitch McConnell on the other."
Bright also took a swipe at the immigration reform plan that Graham has taken a lead on, along with several other senators in both parties.
"It still appears to be amnesty," he said. "We need to reach out to Hispanics and we need their support, but I am not sure that's the way to go about it. I understand about immigration. I am Irish, German and Cherokee. So I appreciate that. But there also needs to be some semblance of the culture. We need a common language ... I am going to look at the bill but I want to make sure that it's not an attempt to buy votes for the Republican Party."