(CNN) - South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham defended his record as a consensus-builder on Tuesday and said the Lexington County Republican Party's decision to censure him on Monday was the work of a few angry Ron Paul supporters intent on purifying the GOP.
The resolution, which censured Graham for supporting the 2008 financial bailout and working towards a compromise on cap-and-trade legislation, passed Monday night by a 13-7 vote.
"I have tried my best to be a conservative that can grow and build this party," Graham said, according to The State newspaper. "They have no desire to do that - I do."
South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson, who became a conservative hero after he shouted "You lie!" at President Obama during a major speech last year, hails from Lexington County. He also defended Graham.
“Lindsey Graham has been a great leader for our state and party," Wilson said in a statement to CNN. "I appreciate everything he has done for me and his tireless work in helping Republicans at all levels of government. He’s a team player. Ronald Reagan always said that people who agree with you 80 percent of the time should be considered a good friend. Reagan was a wise man and if we want to build a strong, vibrant Republican Party we should follow his advice.”
Shortly after Graham's comments about the censure on Tuesday, former leaders of the Lexington County Republican Party in South Carolina contacted the current party chairman to question the censure effort.
Four former Lexington County GOP chairs co-wrote an e-mail to party chairman Rich Bolen claiming that Graham was "ambushed" by the vote because party members were not told ahead of Monday's meeting that any resolutions would be considered - especially one censuring the state's senior senator. As a result, they wrote, not all members of the county party attended the meeting to express their views.
"The resolution should have been added to the agenda and sent out in advance, and every member of the committee should have been given a chance to participate in the process," they wrote.
The e-mail, provided to CNN by a source close to Graham, was written by former Lexington GOP leaders Scott Malyerck, Katrina Shealy, Butch Wallace, and Lyman Whitehead.
(Full text of e-mail after the jump)
The former chairs said the censure was the product of a "vocal" and "disgruntled" minority within the Lexington GOP.
"We don't agree with the Senator on every issue, but we don't agree with any elected official on every vote," they wrote. "Overall, we believe Senator Graham to be a conservative stalwart and accomplished leader in our Party."
Graham was also censured by the Charleston County GOP in November over similar complaints about his commitment to conservative principles.
Full text of e-mail to Lexington County GOP chairman Rich Bolen:
January 5, 2010
Rich Bolen, Chairman
Lexington County Republican Party
PO Box 1346
Lexington, SC 29071
We are incredibly disappointed about the events of last night's Executive Committee meeting, and we are very discouraged about what a handful of members of the committee were allowed to do in the name of the Lexington County Republican Party. We believe the actions of a disgruntled few will tarnish the years of hard work invested by thousands of Republicans who have worked for years to build our Party.
Senator Lindsey Graham is a conservative problem-solver who is helping us build the Republican Party in Lexington County and South Carolina. With a 90% lifetime conservative rating, he fits the mold of his predecessor Strom Thurmond, who we all knew. We don't agree with the Senator on every issue, but we don't agree with any elected official on every vote. Overall, we believe Senator Graham to be a conservative stalwart and accomplished leader in our Party. He certainly did not deserve to be ambushed like he was last night.
We think it is unfair that the censure resolution was allowed to move forward last evening. On the e-mail notice that went out before the meeting, there was no mention that any resolutions would be considered, much less a resolution to censure our senior United States Senator. When the time came for a decision about whether a quorum existed or whether the motion should be postponed until February, the demands of a vocal minority won. For something as serious as a censure resolution, the process should have been above reproach – especially as to whether a quorum even existed or if the people voting were even on the executive committee (a list which no one had at the meeting). The resolution should have been added to the agenda and sent out in advance, and every member of the committee should have been given a chance to participate in the process.
As it now stands, 13 people have now spoken for our county's 70 organized precincts and the 23,000 Republicans who voted in our 2008 primary. This is completely unfair and very disappointing.
We stand ready to fight Democrats, register more conservative voters, and get more Republicans to the polls, but we will not be part of circular firing squads that tear down our beloved Party.
Scott Malyerck, Katrina Shealy, Butch Wallace, and Lyman Whitehead
Former Chairmen of the Lexington County Republican Party