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US Senator Graham Joins Crowded Presidential Contest

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. speaks to supporters after announcing his bid for presidential election, June 1, 2015, in Central, S.C.

U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of the southern state of South Carolina, a hawkish advocate for U.S. military intervention in overseas conflicts, joined the crowded field Monday seeking the party's 2016 presidential nomination.

He became the ninth Republican to announce his candidacy and the fourth Republican senator, following Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Graham announced his bid in his hometown of Central, South Carolina, telling supporters that he wants to be president "to defeat the enemies that are trying to kill us." He said the United States "will never enjoy peaceful co-existence will radical Islam."

Graham, a frequent critic of President Barack Obama and his oversight of U.S. foreign affairs, said the American leader's policies have "made us less safe."

Political surveys show the 59-year-old Graham with little initial support among the Republican electorate, but the field is so crowded no candidate has emerged as a solid front-runner.

Graham, a former Air Force lawyer who has been a congressman and senator for the past 20 years, said he has more national security experience than any other candidate in the race.

He called for more bipartisan cooperation on major issues between Republicans and Democrats in Washington.

U.S. presidential candidates, as of June 1, 2016
U.S. presidential candidates, as of June 1, 2016

Graham is a close political ally of the 2008 Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, who lost that year to Mr. Obama in the national election.

The party's first nominating contest occurs early next year in the midwestern state of Iowa, with a party primary soon after in Graham's home state along the country's mid-Atlantic shores.

The eventual Republican nominee will square off in the November 2016 election against the Democratic contender. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is currently the Democratic party's overwhelming favorite for the nomination. Two other Democrats have announced their candidacies, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.