Beaufort News

Beaufort Co. man says he’s seriously considering a run to unseat Lindsey Graham in 2020

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina addresses the National Guard Association of the United States 138th General Conference, Baltimore, Md., Sept. 11, 2016.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina addresses the National Guard Association of the United States 138th General Conference, Baltimore, Md., Sept. 11, 2016. — Jim Greenhill

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is one of the most well-known politicians on the national stage, but that might not prevent a county councilman from challenging him in 2020.

Mike Covert, a Republican who represents Beaufort County District 7 on County Council, recently updated his Twitter bio to suggest a possible U.S. Senate run. Identifying himself as a “potential candidate,” Covert is an active tweeter and many of his tweets are taken out of President Donald Trump’s playbook.

One recent tweet about former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used the hashtag #LockHerUp, which was a popular campaign rally cry for Trump during the 2016 election. Other tweets have been critical of Graham, admonishing him for increased television appearances and the “two sides” of the senator.

Graham has served in the U.S. Senate since 2003, succeeding longtime Sen. Strom Thurmond after he retired. Covert was elected to council in November 2016 when he ran unopposed to represent much of greater Bluffton.

In a Wednesday phone call, Covert said he didn’t know exactly when the bio was updated, but that this possibility has been in the works since last year.

“We have a lot of problems,” he said. “One of those is identity — in D.C., Columbia, it’s too much like Washington. People need representatives who understand them, think like them and can talk with them.”

Covert, of Bluffton, said he was approached by Republicans in Columbia last year when he said they “heard about (his) style and heard about me.”

Beaufort County District 7 Councilman Mike Covert — Twitter

Since his election to council, Covert has shown his willingness to speak out and, at times, against his colleagues. As the vice chairman of the county’s finance committee, Covert has clashed with committee chairman Jerry Stewart at times, and he has been among the councilmembers consistently against council leadership’s preference for the county administrator job, Josh Gruber.

Covert has been most outspoken on two matters. The first is Beaufort County’s opposition to Hardeeville’s attempt at annexing land at Malind Bluff and Malind Point in Okatie back in May. Council was mostly in agreement on that issue, but Covert was among the first members to raise the issue.

However, Covert’s other instance of being on the more outspoken side has come in opposition to a contract Gruber’s successor as interim county administrator, Tom Keaveny, signed without most of council’s knowledge. After Keaveny defended the contract before the finance committee on Sept. 24, Covert voted to launch an outside investigation and was one of three councilmen tasked with finding outside counsel.

Despite his prominence on council, Covert said any run — which he will decide on after Election Day, but before the new year — would not disrupt his ability to serve his Beaufort County constituents.

“I already run a busy schedule,” he said. “I would not let it hamper Beaufort County. But I would relinquish control of my company so I would have time to travel the state and talk to folks.”

Covert said he had not yet figured out who would take over control of his HVAC company, Covert Aire.

When asked what would set him apart from Graham in a potential primary contest, Covert said he has a relatability factor that he feels Graham does not.

“I do not believe Lindsey Graham represents the people of South Carolina,” he said. “He’s done a formidable job but I believe it’s time for him to move on. He can’t relate to the South Carolinian next door and I think South Carolina’s tired of that.”