Can Jamie Harrison Beat Lindsey Graham In South Carolina?

By Barney Blakeney

Former South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jamie Harrison is set to challenge Sen. Lindsey Graham in the November 3 general election to become the first Democratic senator from South Carolina since Fritz Hollings retired in 2005. He perhaps is mounting the most serious challenge Graham has faced in years.

I used to like Graham. When he first went to the House of Representatives in 1995, I thought he did a fair job working across the aisle with Democrats. It won him some disfavor among staunchly conservative Republicans who sought to unseat him. But he seemed to change when he was elected to the Senate in 2005. Today I see Graham as ridiculously ultra conservative. I’m almost saddened to see Graham emerge as a Donald Trump clone, though on rare occasions he breaks from of the Trump camp.

The alternative Harrison offers is a breath of fresh air. I first met the 44-year-old Orangeburg native in 2008 while working for Clay Middleton’s S.C. House campaign. Those guys were Jim Clyburn protégés. Middleton had a slew of young guns running his campaign. They ran a tech savvy campaign. I thought it was a mistake. We live in a modern technical age, but old school back in the day political campaigns still is what works – meet and greet/press the flesh. Old schoolers represent the vast majority of Black voters. If you want their votes, you gotta go old school campaigning. Middleton lost the election.

Since then, Harrison has emerged as a leading character on the state’s political stage. He served as chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party from 2013 to 2017 and is an associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee. In 2016, he ran for Democratic National Committee chair. We talked numerous times while he ran the state party. I found him to be a smart guy.

Harrison was raised by his mother and grandparents. He attended Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School and received a scholarship to Yale University where he majored in political science. After graduating from Yale in 1998, he was appointed COO of College Summit, a non-profit organization that helps low-income youth find a path to college and a career. He earned his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 2004.

After leaving College Summit, Harrison became involved in politics, working for Jim Clyburn as his floor director of operations while Clyburn was the Majority Whip of the House of Representatives. Harrison went on to serve as executive director of the House Democratic Caucus and vice chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party. He later served as a lobbyist for the Podesta Group. In May 2013, Harrison became chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party. He is the first African American to have served in the role.

When I heard Harrison was running for the S.C. Senate seat I wondered “What could this guy be thinking? Who can beat Lindsey Graham in South Carolina?” Shows you how much I know.

Since announcing his candidacy, Harrison has emerged as the quintessential candidate to succeed Lindsey Graham. Beyond the Trump cult, Harrison has demonstrated the qualities of a Yale educated/Georgetown U. lawyer independent thinking Republican voters can relate to and the compassion Democratic voters espouse. As an independent voter, I see Harrison as a viable alternative to an increasingly more politically pandering Graham.

I asked a friend, political consultant Abe Jenkins, what he thought. He said Harrison probably is the Democrats’ strongest choice to run against Graham. Even with Graham’s hefty campaign war chest, Harrison has been competitive, raising more funding in a single quarter than any other candidate before him. Tech savvy Jenkins said Harrison has a “solid chance” of beating Graham according to political polls.

“Harrison’s a really good candidate,” Jenkins said. “He’s extremely intelligent and he knows how to build coalitions. He has the experience, capabilities and skillset. There’s no questioning his ability to implement policy or his knowledge of how the system works. The question is can Harrison win in this state.”

I think that’s the question South Carolina voters must ask themselves – can our voters look beyond blind party loyalty to support a candidate who can take us into the Future? I think we have to. Our world is changing. We must also change. I think that change can begin with Jamie Harrison.

17 Comments

  1. Vicky Agnew on June 5, 2020 at 5:18 pm

    Mr. Blakeney,
    Regarding your first paragraph: Sen. Hollings died in 2019. Perhaps you meant retired?

  2. keith biser on June 6, 2020 at 8:51 am

    I agree with you. Graham was talked about like he was an idiot by Trump during the campaign but now he supports him like puppy. Its time for him to go

  3. Mike Woodie on June 6, 2020 at 6:47 pm

    How can Jamie call himself a Christian when he is DEMOCRAT ? He doesn’t even put democrat on his advertising! Hum !

    • Henry on June 7, 2020 at 5:39 pm

      Since when was Rebublican synonymous with being Christian? If anything the Rebublican in the White House is a perfect illustration of what is not a Christian.

    • John on June 7, 2020 at 8:18 pm

      Why can a Democrat not be a Christian? That is idiotic. The thought that only Republicans can be Christian is the stupidest thing I ever heard. Someone needs to turn off Fox News……..

      • Leslie on June 9, 2020 at 8:30 pm

        REALLY !!!! 😂😂😂😂😂😂

      • Nicole WARD on June 24, 2020 at 8:16 pm

        Agreed. I have no idea why “Christian” has become synonymous with Republican; especially when we all know full well Trump is not even remotely a Christian and obviously there are countless Christian Democrats. Perhaps it is ignorance about the many different churches and identify all “Christians” as far-right conservative evangelical Republicans.

        • AJ Hansen on July 4, 2020 at 10:11 pm

          question is, Jamie’s ad shows & talks about ( hand over heart) about his love of country & church.
          Yet, has a DNC member, is AGAINST the Pledge & Prayer in schools and now during public events.
          That is SOooo 2 faced. Just another lying politician!!!

    • JNH on June 8, 2020 at 3:11 pm

      Jesus would weep at a political party claiming they are His party. Jesus wasn’t about politics. He was about God. He would not be happy with any political party 100%. Both have Christian sentiments and both do not.

    • Leslie on June 9, 2020 at 8:25 pm

      Because he’s 100% non Christian

    • lucy smith on June 10, 2020 at 12:19 pm

      Mike Woodie- your comment is evidences your ignorance, and the uninformed have no business making comment. Go and learn what Christianity is before slapping up comments that only serve to make you ridiculous.

    • L. Ackerman King on June 18, 2020 at 1:28 pm

      I am surprised that Mr. Woodie thinks only Republicans can be Christian. No that’s funny: I thought all Christians were Democrats. People and their religions apparently don’t have anything to do with politics. Go figure.

    • Scott on July 7, 2020 at 5:58 am

      How do you, a Republican, call yourself a Christian? I often wonder the same thing. Republicans are mostly racist ( are you anti-racist? Pretty sure you’re not… so you’re probably racist. Fact. ), they’d rather go to church and put their money in a basket than help the poor, say they’re pro life but are for the death penalty, don’t wear masks because Trump told you it’s not cool, so on so forth. I think Jesus would wear a mask ( not because he needs it but to show his people he’s with them ), Jesus would be the first to walk with the black lives matter movement, Jesus would not be at a campaign rally waving flags and wearing stupid tshirts… he’d be kneeling with those who feel oppressed and praying with those in need. Think twice when you decide who’s side you think you’re on. WWJD.

  4. David Thompson on June 7, 2020 at 9:31 am

    Lindsey like many current day Senators are so afraid of a Trump tweet that they have lost their moral conscience, their ability to represent all of their constituents and honor the Constitution of the United States!

  5. Carl Southern on June 7, 2020 at 11:20 am

    Well this is not ” I Guess” the time to ask or comment here with the protest and funerals going on for Mr. George Floyd but I am a concerned citizen for fairness in voting. I live in Marlboro Co. SC and decided to look up the candidates and what I found didn’t make me happy. 1. It was hard to find the site for Mr. Harrison, 2. A Site called ballotready.com where all that was listed were Republicans for Federal office (Senate) and nothing about Democrats for any federal office. Thought maybe you guys could get the word out that this site is prejudiced and they are recommending that you fill out your ballot and bring it with you to the voting polls. Help!

  6. Andrew on June 7, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    Isn’t the election Nov 3 not Nov 9th?

  7. nancy falkenstein on June 21, 2020 at 7:45 am

    I wish I lived in SC so I could vote for Jamie Harrison. Lindsey Graham has more than had his day…we need to get Trumpsters out of Congress! BTW I am a Christian…Independent Voter…trust that is ok!

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