Third-party candidate in SC senate race drops out, throws support behind Graham

A third-party candidate in South Carolina’s Senate race is dropping out and endorsing Sen. Lindsey Graham, providing the Republican incumbent with a boost as he faces an unexpectedly strong Democratic challenger.

Bill Bledsoe, who was the Constitution Party’s candidate in the Palmetto State, said Thursday he is dropping out to back Graham, specifically citing the senator’s efforts as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee to usher President Trump’s judicial nominees to federal courts across the country.

“This is the most important election in my lifetime. I appreciate Senator Graham’s work helping President Trump confirm over 200 conservative judges to lifetime appointments on the federal bench,” Bledsoe said in a statement distributed by Graham’s campaign. “President Trump has asked that conservatives stand together and re-elect Lindsey Graham in order to help make America great again, and I agree.

“I will be voting for President Donald Trump and Senator Lindsey Graham on November 3rd, and I urge every freedom-loving South Carolinian to do the same.”

The conservative Constitution Party says its purpose is “to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.”

The endorsement from Bledsoe, a veterinarian from Spartanburg, marks a small victory for Graham, who is fielding a tough challenge from Democrat Jaime Harrison. Harrison is heading into the final sprint to Election Day with a gargantuan campaign account after attracting donors from across the country, and polls show him and Graham running neck and neck. 

Bledsoe ran against Sen. Tim Scott (R) in the 2016 South Carolina Senate race for both the Constitution and Libertarian parties, raising eyebrows when he carried around a Revolutionary War-era rifle as he discussed gun restrictions. But while he only garnered 2 percent support in that race, a similar showing could have made the difference in a Senate contest that polls show may be decided at the margins.

Graham, who first won his seat in 2002 and coasted to reelection in 2008 and 2014, is looking to consolidate support from conservatives who may be wary over his early criticism of President Trump’s campaign in 2015 before he turned into one of the White House’s staunchest allies. He’s also at times drawn Republicans’ ire over his willingness to work with Democrats and his stances on immigration. 

“I appreciate Dr. Bledsoe’s support. We agree on numerous issues like increasing the number of conservative judges on the bench, reducing the national debt, upholding the sanctity of life, and having a strong military,” Graham said. “Dr. Bledsoe and I both recognize that Democrats like Jaime Harrison pose a threat to these values and our beloved state. Radical liberals, like my opponent Jaime Harrison, are trying to fundamentally change who we are as a country.”

Tags 2020 2020 election 2020 Senate races Bill Bledsoe Donald Trump Lindsey Graham South Carolina Tim Scott

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