Elections

Touting record fundraising haul, SC Democrat’s establishment endorsements pay off

Jaime Harrison slams Sen. Lindsey Graham for Senate seat

Jaime Harrison plans to launch his campaign against Sen. Lindsey Graham in the coming weeks. Harrison said he wants to bring hope and trust to the people Graham has neglected during his three-terms in office.
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Jaime Harrison plans to launch his campaign against Sen. Lindsey Graham in the coming weeks. Harrison said he wants to bring hope and trust to the people Graham has neglected during his three-terms in office.

Support from the Democratic establishment is paying off for Jaime Harrison of South Carolina.

A Democratic U.S. Senate candidate looking to take out incumbent Republican Lindsey Graham, Harrison announced on Tuesday his campaign raised $1.3 million in just 33 days.

Harrison’s campaign says the fundraising haul is a record in South Carolina for a Democratic candidate running for the U.S. Senate, according to a look back at Democratic campaign finance reports since 1984.

Harrison has now raised a total of $1.5 million since announcing he was forming an exploratory campaign to unseat Graham. He made his exploratory bid official at the end of May.

“We’re building a campaign unlike anything Lindsey Graham has faced before, built on an incredible outpouring of support from grassroots donors and volunteers,” said Harrison campaign manager Zack Carroll in a statement.

“This campaign is focused on empowering regular South Carolinians to hold Lindsey Graham accountable for his record of always putting his political future ahead of what’s best for South Carolina,” Carroll added.

The Harrison campaign will not file an official fundraising report for the year’s second quarter with the Federal Elections Commission until July 15 the latest, so there is currently no information about who contributed — whether the majority of donations came from in or outside the state, or whether they represent political action committees or individuals.

All the campaign would reveal is that $26 was the average donation, and contributions this fundraising quarter came from 57,000 sources.

Still, Harrison’s high-profile endorsements have given him a visibility that has surely helped his standing so far.

He is running with the support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and nearly every Democrat running for president who wants to do well in South Carolina’s pivotal primary election. U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the Democratic Party kingmaker in South Carolina, also gave Harrison the chance to convene a mini-campaign rally at his “World Famous Fish Fry” late last month. South Carolina’s last Democratic governor, Jim Hodges, has offered a significant in-state endorsement.

Harrison got his start in politics working as a senior aide to Clyburn on Capitol Hill. He then moved back to South Carolina to serve as the state party’s first black chairman and is now an associate chairman with the Democratic National Committee. U.S. Sen Cory Booker, D-N.J., even gave Harrison a shout-out during the presidential debates last week. Harrison also worked as a lobbyist for the now-defunct Podesta Group.

His momentum comes as Democrats all but ignore his primary opponent, two-time S.C. congressional candidate and former Georgia state representative Gloria Bromell Tinubu. She has not released her most recent campaign earnings so far, but she said in a recent statement that “it’s ironic that the party that bears the name ‘Democratic’ would attempt to exert ‘undemocratic’ influence in our primary process by tipping the scale in favor of political Washington’s elites.”

Even as Harrison appears to have an advantage, however, he and Bromell Tinubu still face an uphill battle to defeat Graham. In addition to South Carolina being a reliably Republican-leaning state, Graham is the current chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee who is enjoying newfound popularity with the conservative base thanks to his alliance with President Donald Trump and his now-famous defense of embattled Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh last fall.

While Graham was once worried about fending off viable primary challengers, this time around he has the support of every constitutionally-elected statewide official and all seven Republicans in the S.C. congressional delegation.

In the last fundraising quarter, Graham himself boasted a personal record-breaking haul of over $2 million. His campaign does not yet have updated figures to share or immediate comment on Harrison’s new numbers.

But Rob Godfrey, who was a spokesman for former Republican S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, said the GOP shouldn’t take the state’s conservative leanings for granted.

“A record-breaking fundraising quarter for a Democratic U.S. Senate challenger in South Carolina is reason enough for Republicans to not only pay attention to Jaime Harrison but to take him seriously,” Godfrey told The State. “Raising this kind of money demonstrates that Jaime will do the work it takes to run a real campaign.”

For now, Drew McKissick, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, is unimpressed.

“Jaime is a former D.C. lobbyist with ties to liberal Hollywood money, so I’m surprised he didn’t raise more,” McKissick said in a statement. “He’s running against Senator Graham in deep red South Carolina. While out of state money may be flowing to Jaime’s campaign, South Carolina voters aren’t.”

Though several celebrities endorsed Harrison on Twitter following his campaign launch, it is not clear whether entertainers have actually made donations.

Emma Dumain works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, where she reports on South Carolina politics for The State, The Herald, The Sun News, The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. She was previously the Washington correspondent for the Charleston, South Carolina Post and Courier. Dumain also covered Congress for Roll Call and Congressional Quarterly.
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