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Aide to US Sen. Lindsey Graham running for Upstate congressional seat

EASLEY — Kevin Bishop, a Pickens County resident and recently retired communications director for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, announced March 7 he is running for Congress in South Carolina’s Third Congressional District.

Bishop is seeking the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan in one of the most conservative corners of South Carolina. The district spans a 10-county area in the western corner of the state.

“I was born and raised in South Carolina and for the past 25 years Easley and Pickens County have been my home,” Bishop said in a press release.

“It’s where Julie and I bought a house, joined a church, raised four wonderful children, and cheered on my Clemson Tigers,” he added. “The rest of the country could learn a lot from people and places like Easley.”

Graham has not made an endorsement in the race, his office said March 7.

Bishop is the latest Republican to launch a congressional bid in the district after Duncan abruptly announced Jan. 17 he will not seek reelection after 14 years in Washington, creating a vacancy likely to draw high interest in the Upstate.

Republican state Rep. Stewart Jones, a member of the ultra-conservative S.C. Freedom Caucus from Laurens County, is also running for Duncan’s seat. So is Sheri Biggs, an Oconee County resident and lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard who describes herself as anti-abortion, a lifelong Republican and strong supporter of former President Donald Trump.

Franky Franco, a self-described conservative evangelical businessman who lives in Simpsonville, announced he was running March 1. Franco, who is Cuban-American and attended Bob Jones University, is basing much of his platform around his parents’ experience immigrating to the United States and “the American dream.”

Bishop brings decades of Washington experience to the race beginning with his political involvement as a Senate page for Sen. Strom Thurmond in 1988.

After graduating from Clemson University in 1993, he moved to Washington and worked for the conservative Leadership Institute, then for a Republican congressional campaign in Texas and the Republican National Committee.

Bishop joined Graham’s staff in 1997 when Graham represented the Third District in Congress. He served as Graham’s communications director from 2003 until February 2024.

He worked with Graham on the Senate confirmations of Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts. He was also involved in the impeachment efforts against former President Bill Clinton and worked to twice acquit President Trump in Senate impeachment trials, according to the press release.

Bishop’s announcement comes after Duncan said he would not seek reelection after seven terms in the House of Representatives. Duncan is one of six Republicans in the state’s seven-member congressional delegation and has represented the state’s most conservative region for the past 14 years while advancing several energy and infrastructure policies.

Duncan become a leading conservative voice in the state, and his annual Faith and Freedom barbecue gatherings have drawn national figures, from Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to presidential contenders. He is yet to endorse any of the candidates in the race to succeed him.

In recent months, Duncan’s service has been overshadowed by accusations of adultery with a Washington lobbyist as alleged by his wife.

Duncan did not acknowledge the alleged affair in his January statement. The accusations surfaced when his wife, Melody Hodges Duncan, filed for divorce Sept. 22, according to Laurens County Family Court records.

The primary election for South Carolina’s congressional races is June 11.

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