And not just any rifle, Bright’s email announcement said, but an AR-15. A semiautomatic military rifle, the AR-15 became available for sale in the United States following expiration of the federal assault weapon ban in 2004.
And this fundraiser isn’t for just any campaign, either, but to aid Bright’s challenge to incumbent U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in South Carolina’s Republican Party primary election, scheduled for June.
But for the Republican state senator from Roebuck, this rifle raffle fundraiser isn’t novel or new. It’s just his way to correlate his name with what he thinks most South Carolinians find most important. Bright told GoUpstate on January 23:
"We wanted to let folks know my position on the Second Amendment and bring like-minded people together."
And for the Republican state senator from Roebuck, this isn’t anything unusual. Bright’s well-known for far-right idioms and idiosyncrasies. In February 2011, Bright introduced a bill calling for South Carolina to replace the U.S. dollar with its own currency of precious metals. He told Spartanburg’s WSPA-7:
"Gold and silver is something that has been stable and, you know, I think that folks may have a little more faith in it at this time."
In May 2011, he sought to remove state employee insurance coverage for abortions due to rape, incest or threat to the life of the mother, the only circumstances in which the insurance covers the medical procedure. Referring to “taxpayer-funded abortions,” Bright was reportedly incensed at other state senators who rejected the bill, accusing them of “killing children with taxpayer money(.)”
And after introducing legislation to conflict with the Affordable Care Act in 2010, Bright told media “If at first you don’t secede, try again.”
Bright is one of four challengers to the incumbent senator, and says one inspiration to run for office was what he finds to be Graham’s Democratic-leaning record. Advertising a pro-life, no-tax and free-trade platform on his campaign site, Bright is also known for claiming food stamps should only be provided in exchange for labor, requesting that proponents of healthcare reform be arrested, proposing that disabled citizens only receive aid from churches, calling for immigrants to “self-deport,” and demanding an abolishment of the IRS, which he compares to the Nazi Party.
And despite his far-right position, Bright’s received support for what some say is a wide spectrum of applicability of his goals. Scott Pearson, chair of the state Republican Liberty Caucus, told U.S. News & World Report:
"The thing that really stands out for me is that (Bright) is a unifier. He can bring together the various aspects, the various segments of the Republican Party of South Carolina. And he can do that in a way that our incumbent is not able to do."
In primary polls, though, Bright remains a distant second to Graham, who has consistently been given top ratings from conservative special interest groups and scores of zero from progressive ones. While Bright took 15 percent in October’s Conservative Intel study, Graham scored 51-majority even though 22 percent were undecided, indicating little threat to the incumbent. His biggest supporters in the primary race could the opposing party, though, which could easily defeat Bright in the general election, some members find. Says Deborah Mortellaro, an officer of the Dorchester County Democratic Party in South Carolina:
"To paraphrase that classic song, ‘Turn out Lee Bright, the Republican Party’s over.’"
Bright will also need to overcome personal financial woes, Columbia’s The State recently reported. On his initial campaign disclosure to the Federal Election Commission, he reported personal debt to 29 creditors within range of $1.4 million to $3.1 million.