‘I know the challenges of growing up poor in this state’: Jaime Harrison joins 2020 US Senate race, challenging Sen. Lindsey Graham

Updated: May. 29, 2019 at 7:32 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham will have a challenger in 2020.

Jamie Harrison is an Orangeburg native and the first African American chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

Harrison says it’s time South Carolina has a Senator who is focused on issues of importance to South Carolinians, rather than a senator preoccupied with their own political ambitions.

In a sit-down interview with WIS, Harrison framed the U.S Senate race as a contest he can win:

"In this race, it’s easy to get caught in the ‘left and right’ discussion. But this is more of a discussion of what's right and what's wrong. There's a lot that is wrong that is going on now in South Carolina- but also across the country and we've got to address that. We've got to fix that."

Harrison highlighted education reform and health care for South Carolinians as top priorities in the campaign. He also attempted to paint his opponent, the incumbent Senator as out of touch with the concerns of everyday people. Senator Graham took office in 2002.

"Lindsey (Sen. Graham) just recently talked about the tariffs that the President is pushing for, and said that 'We all have to experience a little pain.' My question to Senator Graham is 'What pain are you experiencing?'"

Harrison faces an uphill climb, as no Democrat has won statewide office in the Palmetto State since 2006.

When asked what sort of coalition he plans to put together to buck that trend, Harrison said,

"Democrats, Independents and some Republicans as well. And I think it’s possible because at the end of the day people just want someone who will represent them."

Harrison criticized Senator Graham for siding too often with President Trump, and for what he sees as Graham's inappropriate rhetoric.

"Lindsey Graham was just at some forum the other day... a State Republican convention. And at the convention I guess he was frustrated because there have been some people across the country, particularly here in South Carolina who said that he should resign. I don't think he should resign- we can beat him at the ballot box. But nonetheless, he was frustrated with that. He said 'Those people should go to Hell'. A senator doesn’t say that to his or her constituents."

Harrison pointed out how he was born to a 16-year-old mother, and raised by his grandparents in Orangeburg, going on to graduate from Yale and then Georgetown Law School. He is banking on his biography and life experience to win over voters.

"I know the challenges of growing up poor in this state."

Harrison described his own childhood of poverty, having to eat cereal with water instead of milk at times, and having to find change in the couch cushions to afford a gallon of gas. Harrison says experiences similar to his are shared by far too many people in our state, despite the state and national unemployment figures showing the lowest unemployment numbers in decades.

"There are people in South Carolina today - people who I know, people in these small towns... black, white, Democrat, Republican that are still really going through all of this. And I think those folks deserve to have someone who can be a champion for them."

The National Republican Senatorial Committee meantime issued a statement in response to Harrison's announcement that he is running for the U.S Senate. The statement reads, "Harrison is a looney liberal who was hand-picked to run by radical Washington Democrats. Lindsey Graham is one of the most popular U.S. Senators in the country because South Carolina voters know that he has delivered results and has been a tireless fighter for Palmetto state values."

Stay with WIS for the latest in the 2020 South Carolina U.S Senate race.

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