Politics & Government

Lindsey Graham makes presidential bid from South Carolina

Graham makes presidential bid from South Carolina

It may turn out to be a quixotic quest, but U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s possible White House bid could shake up one of the most pivotal contests of the 2016 Republican presidential race.

A day before former nominee Mitt Romney took himself out of 2016 consideration, Graham announced an exploratory committee called Strength Through Security to test the waters for a presidential run.

In November, the sometimes-maverick Republican handily won re-election to a third term. Running his committee will be David Wilkins, a former S.C. House speaker and U.S. ambassador to Canada.

If Graham remains in the race, he could play an outsize role in the South Carolina primary, tentatively scheduled for February 2016. It’s traditionally an early GOP contest after caucuses in Iowa and Nevada and the New Hampshire primary.

Scott Huffmon, a political scientist at Winthrop University, says some lower-tier GOP candidates could skip the primary, taking their campaigns and money elsewhere.

“On the other hand, there will be people in the top tier who say, ‘I can beat Lindsey Graham if I carve out my niche and spend a little more,’ ” Huffmon says. “Beating Lindsey Graham in his backyard would be a feather in the cap of top-tier candidates, and they would want to claim that.”

Graham is close to former GOP nominee Sen. John McCain, who called his protege a “dark horse.”

“And you watch him,” he told Politico. “He’ll be a lot more formidable than anyone thinks at this moment.”

Graham, who has a flair for cameras and quips, has a knack for getting attention.

“In some ways he’s more popular outside South Carolina than he is inside,” Huffmon says. “He’s never seen a Sunday talk show he didn’t like.” Jim Morrill

Ridenhour ‘frustrated’ over reassignment

After last Tuesday’s Mecklenburg County commissioners meeting, commissioner Matthew Ridenhour pulled aside Chairman Trevor Fuller to make a “last-minute plug” to remain chairman of the board’s economic development committee.

It’s Fuller’s responsibility as chairman to assign commissioners to the board’s committees, and at that point he hadn’t announced his decisions.

“He paused and then said, ‘Well, I want to talk to you about that,’ ” Ridenhour said. “He told me he was removing me as chair of the committee.”

Instead, Fuller appointed Ella Scarborough, the newly elected at-large Democratic commissioner, to chair the committee. Ridenhour is still a committee member and will chair the audit committee.

Fuller, who has urged commissioners several times in recent weeks to get along, said Scarborough had been “heavily” involved in economic development matters when she served on the Charlotte City Council.

“I wanted to take advantage of her experience,” he said.

Yet chairing the audit committee didn’t seem to placate Ridenhour. “I am very frustrated that I am no longer the chair of economic development,” he said. “Economic development is certainly a passion of mine. I think I’ve run smooth and effective meetings. I think I’m qualified for it.”

In making his assignments, Fuller said he tried to place commissioners in committees that fit their skills – as Republican commissioner Jim Puckett had urged him to do.

As for the Ridenhour reassignment, Fuller said: “I don’t regret doing that. I am somewhat surprised by his reaction. I thought he’d like the audit committee – it’s his kind of stuff. When you make these appointments all at once, you try to balance all kinds of stuff, making sure no one’s workload is too heavy.

“But, hey, you’ve got nine people on this board, and you’re not going to be able to make everybody happy.” David Perlmutt

Burr off and running

Sen. Richard Burr kicked off fundraising for his 2016 re-election campaign Wednesday night with an event in Washington that brought in more than $1 million.

That’s a record for a Burr fundraising event, said Paul Shumaker, the campaign general counsel. He said the final figure, after pledges are counted, would exceed $1 million.

There was speculation in Washington that Burr might not be running because he only had $720,000 cash on hand in the latest campaign finance filing. But Burr recently announced a team of veteran political operatives as his 2016 campaign staff.

“He wants to make everybody very clear that he’s running,” Shumaker said.

Burr’s campaign expects that spending for next year’s race will exceed the record $116 million spent in 2014 by Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis and his Democratic opponent, former Sen. Kay Hagan.

Burr’s fundraiser was well-attended and held at the Washington office of Altria, the parent company of cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris USA. The campaign is planning a North Carolina kickoff, probably in March, Shumaker said. Renee Schoof

McHenry gets another assignment

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry has added another notch on his leadership belt.

The Denver Republican was named vice chair of the House Financial Services Committee this month. It’s his latest promotion. This summer he was named the House chief deputy whip.

McHenry has served on Financial Services since his first term in 2005. As the chairman of the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, he focused much of his work on probing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a creation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Franco Ordonez

Tillis goes bipartisan

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis will talk about the “lessons learned” from his race Monday at Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center.

Tillis will kick off the center’s new Agenda Setters Series. Each presentation, the center says, will highlight policymakers “who are putting forth innovative thinking about how to solve present-day challenges.” Jim Morrill

Mecklenburg GOP holds dinner

Tillis will join Gov. Pat McCrory and U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger as featured speakers at the Mecklenburg County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner on Saturday.

The dinner takes place at Carmel Country Club. Jim Morrill