GOProud Founder Mulls Senate Bid in South Carolina

If elected, Bruce Carroll would be the first openly gay Republican Senator.

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Jonathan Ernst / REUTERS

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Bruce Carroll, a founder of the gay Republican group GOProud and the popular blog Gay Patriot, announced Monday that he will resign his position at GOProud to consider a 2014 primary challenge to South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.

Carroll announced his decision in an open letter to South Carolina voters, Gay Patriot Readers and GOProud members. “If I believe I could provide a serious alternative to Senator Graham for the voters of South Carolina, and I can find the financial and moral support to join me in that effort, then I will take those next formal steps needed to do so,” wrote Carroll, who would be the first openly gay Republican Senator.

Carroll’s potential candidacy drew quick support from some Palmetto State conservatives who are eager to see Graham face a primary challenge. “Bruce is a true conservative,” said Joanne Jones, vice chairman of the Charleston Tea Party. But with low name recognition, Caroll may struggle to drum up the bankroll to challenge Graham, 57, in a socially conservative state.

Bruce Carroll Tea Party


Bruce Carroll

“I live, eat, and breath South Carolina politics, and I have never heard his name before in my life,” Katon Dawson, the chairman of the South Carolina GOP from 2002 to 2009, told TIME. While some conservatives were upset by Graham’s opposition to Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster over the legality of killing Americans via drone, the incident is “a stub of a toe from which he will recover,” says Warren Tompkins, a former Graham consultant in South Carolina who advised the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and George W. Bush. Carroll told RedState that Graham’s defense of drone attacks proved “Sen. Graham has lost touch with his state.”

Graham has around $4.4 million on hand, and in late February Winthrop University published a poll that showed Graham with an approval rating of 71% among Republicans, and 57% among all registered voters. Carroll’s victory would be historic for a party that largely opposes same-sex marriage (69% to 23% according to a recent poll), but Graham’s stature and support in the state will make him tough to beat.