Washington (CNN) – Just when you thought the race for the South Carolina U.S. Senate seat could not get more unusual, there's a new twist.
Famed South Carolina chef and cookbook author Nathalie Dupree has entered the race as a write-in candidate. She tells CNN she was motivated to launch the long-shot campaign after reading an article last week about GOP incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint's refusal to sign off on a congressional earmark of $400,000 to study dredging for the port of Charleston.
The study was designed to help allow the port to accommodate larger boats - thereby helping the state's economy.
"I just got angry," Dupree says. "Jim DeMint would not sign off on it."
DeMint is a fiscal conservative who has staunchly opposed congressional earmarks.
"Funding for the Port of Charleston is being held hostage to a corrupt, political earmark system that rewards those who play along and tries to punish those who dare to speak for change," DeMint campaign manager Ian Headley told CNN in a written statement.
"Senator DeMint will continue to fight to change this broken system that is short-changing our Port, bankrupting our country and mortgaging the future of South Carolinians."
Dupree is also upset that DeMint has been active this campaign season traveling the country rallying support for other candidates. DeMint's political action committee has donated several million to conservative candidates, many of whom challenged establishment choices in Senate contests this year.
DeMint "would rather change the U.S. Senate than help South Carolinians," Dupree says. "I just think there needs to be a voice at least to make Jim DeMint come home ... instead of (trying to be) a big man to create a new party that is gong to create steam from a kettle."
"One of the ways Senator DeMint fights for South Carolina taxpayers is by helping elect principled leaders to the Senate who will stand up to the big spenders in both political parties," replied Matt Hoskins, a spokesman for the Senate Conservatives Fund.
Dupree, author of 10 books and hundreds of television shows, says the odds in her uphill campaign are not as they otherwise could be because of her fame and notoriety.
"It would be against me if I wasn't so well-known in the South," she says.
After announcing Thursday in several events, she is hitting the campaign trail Friday.
"I am just getting going," she declares.
Dupree, who was active as a youth in Democratic politics, still considers herself a Democrat but says she wants to work with people in both parties, including the state's other GOP senator, Lindsey Graham.
She enters a race that already generated national attention when political novice Alvin Greene shocked the establishment by winning the Democratic primary. Democrats in the state pushed Greene to pull out after news surfaced that he had been charged with showing pornographic images to a college student. He has not entered a plea in the case.
Speculation also swirled about how Green, who is unemployed, could afford the $10,400 filing fee to enter the race. At the same time, observers have questioned the halting answers he gave in several television interviews.
DeMint is heavily favored to win a second term. There is also a Green Party nominee in the race, as well as two other write-in candidates.
Follow Kevin Bohn on Twitter: @KevinBohnCNN