Graham pads campaign war chest

U.S. senator raises half-million dollars in second quarter

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham raised more than a half-million dollars in the second quarter of this year, pushing his campaign war chest above $4 million.

Among the 21 Republican senators seeking re-election next year, only Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky -- the GOP Senate leader -- and John Cornyn of Texas reported having more cash on hand, as of June 30, than the $4,040,396 in Graham's campaign account.

"Sen. Graham is deeply appreciative of the strong showing of support, financial and otherwise, and will continue to provide a leadership role in the United States Senate," said Scott Farmer, Graham's campaign manager.

Graham's second-quarter total of $543,617 was less than half the $1.2 million he raised in the first three months of this year. But aides denied that the smaller haul was a result of his controversial support for an immigration bill that would have legalized millions of undocumented workers.

In an often bitter debate that dominated news headlines, the Senate considered but ultimately rejected the immigration measure during much of the second-quarter period covered by the latest campaign finance reports.

Farmer said the immigration fracas had "minimal" impact on Graham's fundraising efforts.

"Like all campaigns, we wish we could set a new fundraising record each and every quarter, but we understand that is a rare feat," Farmer said. "This impressive financial backing ... is a reflection of the breadth and depth of support Sen. Graham has across the state."

No first-tier opponent has stepped forward to oppose Graham in the November 2008 election. Some conservative activists had touted State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, but he was indicted last month on cocaine possession charges and suspended from his post.

Two political novices, Tim Carnes of Greenville and John Cina, say they'll challenge Graham in the GOP primary. Carnes is a computer specialist, and Cina is a retired Air Force vet.

Also in the race is Republican Gary McLeod, who has unsuccessfully sought the 6th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House several times.

State Rep. Jeff Duncan and former U.S. Rep. Tommy Hartnett, both from the Charleston area, are weighing runs against Graham. No Democrat has expressed public interest.

Vice President Dick Cheney appeared at a Washington fundraising reception for Graham during the spring, while conservative talk show host Sean Hannity headlined a May luncheon in Columbia.

Graham served six years in the House before gaining election to the Senate in 2002.