WEST COLUMBIA — Three of the four candidates trying to defeat Lindsey Graham next year in the Republican primary in South Carolina gathered in the same place Tuesday to talk to GOP stalwarts as they try to differentiate themselves from the U.S. senator seeking a third term.

Lowcountry businesswoman Nancy Mace and the newest entry into the race, Orangeburg attorney Bill Connor, took some time to introduce themselves, while Anderson businessman Richard Cash spoke about how he thinks Republicans must defend Christian moral absolutes to save the country.

Graham didn’t accept an invitation to come from the First Tuesday Republican Club in Lexington County. He sent a picture of himself eating a hot dog in Clemson over Twitter later in the day. State Sen. Lee Bright also wasn’t at the luncheon, but did have a surrogate give a speech.

The candidates didn’t attack each other, saving their criticism for Graham. The senator’s goal is to get a majority of votes and avoid a runoff. The four candidates want to elbow their way to the front to get in a runoff if Graham falls below 50 percent.

Connor touted his military service and promised to strictly follow the U.S. Constitution, waving a copy he keeps in his pocket in front of the two dozen Republicans at the lunch.

He promised that if he is elected, he will only deal with the powers directly given to senators in the Constitution.

“Education, health care and other things that are not enumerated can be pushed back to the states,” Connor said.

Mace spoke about how Republicans need to find unity if they want to take back the U.S. Senate and the White House, and said career politicians like Graham who don’t want to give up power are a big part of the problem.

“The folks in D.C. think they know better than you and I do. The game is rigged against ordinary Americans,” Mace said.

Anderson businessman Richard Cash made sure everyone in the room got a flyer with a picture of him, his wife and their eight children, telling the audience he obviously has a big stake in the country’s future. He then told the crowd the U.S. will not continue to get God’s rewards if it continues to allow sins like abortion and gay marriage to be legalized.

“If we believe in God and want God’s blessings on America, there are moral absolutes we don’t get to vote on,” Cash said.

Bright’s surrogate, Talbert Black Jr., said Bright holds all those conservative positions, but also is the only challenger to Graham with a record through his four years in the South Carolina Senate.

Black said Bright has shown he will stand up not just to Democrats, but also to “those who wear his colors and proclaim to be his allies, but cross to the other side.”