By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - The first female graduate of The Citadel military college said on Saturday she will run in the Republican primary against South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who is one of several Republican incumbents facing challenges from the more conservative wing of the party.
Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from the previously all-male military college in 1999, announced her candidacy at a local Republican Party meeting in Goose Creek, South Carolina.
Graham, who is seeking his third term in 2014, already has one primary challenger in businessman Richard Cash, and political analysts said there could be more. Graham has a campaign war chest of more than $6 million.
He has been criticized by conservatives for supporting immigration reform and compromising with Democrats on some other issues, though overall he has a conservative voting record.
"There are powerful forces in Washington that consider individual liberty passé and the Constitution a dead letter. I believe our state desperately needs new leadership," Mace said in announcing her bid.
Mace is the daughter of a former Citadel commandant, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Emory Mace. She is the author of "In the Company of Men: A Woman at The Citadel."
Several Republican senators up for election could face challenges from the political right. The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has a primary opponent backed by the Tea Party movement, which seeks deep cuts in U.S. government programs.
The sparring within the party led to the loss of at least one U.S. Senate seat in the 2012 election, when a Tea Party-backed challenger defeated incumbent Republican Richard Lugar in Indiana, only to lose to a Democrat in the general election.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Editing by Greg McCune and Vicki Allen)