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United States Senate election in South Carolina, 2002

United States Senate election in South Carolina, 2002

November 5, 2002

Nominee Lindsey Graham Alex Sanders
Party Republican Democratic
Popular vote 600,010 487,359
Percentage 54.4% 44.2%

Senator before election

Strom Thurmond

Elected Senator

Lindsey Graham

The 2002 United States Senate election in South Carolina was held on November 5, 2002. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond decided to retire at the age of 100. Republican Lindsey Graham won the open seat.


  • Democratic primary 1
  • Republican primary 2
  • General election 3
    • Candidates 3.1
    • Campaign 3.2
    • Polling 3.3
    • Results 3.4
  • References 4
  • See also 5

Democratic primary

Alex Sanders, the former president of the College of Charleston, entered the race and faced no opposition from South Carolina Democrats, thereby avoiding a primary election.

Republican primary

Representative Lindsey Graham had no challenge for the Republican nomination and thus avoided a primary election. This was due in large part because the South Carolina Republicans were preoccupied with the gubernatorial race and also because potential rivals were deterred by the huge financial war chest Graham had amassed early in the campaign.

General election


  • Ted Adams (C)
  • Lindsey Graham (R), U.S. Congressman
  • Victor Kocher (L)
  • Alex Sanders (D), former college president


The election campaign between Graham and Sanders pitted ideology against personality. Graham spread his message to the voters that he had a consistent conservative voting record and that his votes in Congress closely matched that of outgoing Senator Strom Thurmond. Sanders claimed that he was best to represent South Carolina in the Senate because he held membership in both the NAACP, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the NRA, and because he said that his positions more closely matched the citizens of the state. He said that he was against the death penalty for religious reasons, supported abortion rights, and was for greater government involvement in education. Graham attacked Sanders for these positions consistently throughout the campaign, but Sanders hit back at Graham for wanting to privatize social security.

Graham scored an impressive victory in the general election and the margin of victory proved that Democrats had little chance of winning an election in the state for a federal position. He achieved his victory because he rolled up strong margins the Upstate and was able to also achieve a majority in the Lowcountry, an area which Sanders had been expected to do well since he hailed from Charleston. However, strong support in the Lowcountry for Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Sanford doomed Sanders chances of running up a margin in the coastal counties.


Source Date Graham (R) Sanders (D)
SurveyUSA November 4, 2002 [1] 49% 48%
Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research October 29, 2002 [2] 53% 36%
SurveyUSA October 27, 2002 [3] 49% 48%
SurveyUSA October 20, 2002 [4] 53% 44%
Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research October 13, 2002 [5] 51% 34%
Zogby International October 11, 2002 [6] 47% 35%


South Carolina U.S. Senate Election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Lindsey Graham 600,010 54.4 +1.0
Democratic Alex Sanders 487,359 44.2 +0.2
Constitution Ted Adams 8,228 0.7 +0.7
Libertarian Victor Kocher 6,684 0.6 -0.5
No party Write-Ins 667 0.1 +0.1
Majority 112,651 10.2 +0.8
Turnout 1,102,948 53.9 -10.1
  Republican hold


  • Bullock, Charles S.; Mark J. Rozell (2006). The New Politics of the Old South: An Introduction to Southern Politics. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 39–41. 
  • Hammond, James (2002-11-06). "Graham claims Thurmond legacy for U.S. Senate". Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  • Johnson, Sasha (2002-05-03). "S.C. Democrats eye Thurmond, fall elections". CNN. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  • Kiker, Douglas (2002-08-09). "Trying To Fill Ol' Strom's Shoes". CBS News. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  • Manjoo, Farhad (2002-11-01). "Guns, lies and the Internet in South Carolina". Retrieved 2008-01-31. 

See also

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