J.Aime Harrison, the Democratic US Senate candidate in South Carolina raised a staggering $ 57 million in the third quarter of 2020, a new record for a single Senate race in the southern state and elsewhere in America.
But Harrison’s race is gaining attention for a number of other reasons as well. His opponent is Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Donald Trump and the President̵
But 2020 is anything but a normal election year. Not only has Harrison set new records for raising money, but his polls have drawn him into unexpected disputes in a state no one viewed as vulnerable to Republicans. That alone could help the Democrats win a Republican-controlled Senate victory that few believed likely a year ago and radically change the direction of American politics.
Harrison’s candidacy is proving to be historic and has attracted considerable national attention. If he beats Graham, South Carolina will become the first state with two seated African American senators. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott is one of the few African American senators in the chamber and the only black Republican. Other states were represented by African Americans, but never at the same time. Since its inception in 1789, the U.S. Senate has had 1,974 members – only 10 were black.
South Carolina has surprisingly turned out to be one of the best odds that Democrats will have to get the three or four seats it takes to regain control of the Senate. While there is huge interest in the White House race, the battle for control of the Senate will also have a huge impact on the shape of the next presidency.
If Trump won the presidency, but Republicans lost control of the Senate, it would severely limit the legislation he could pass. If Biden won the White House but the Democrats did not take control of the Senate, it would mean much of the new president’s legislative program would be dead upon his arrival in Washington, DC.
Molly Reynolds of DC-based think tank Brookings said recently, “The presidential race has hit most of the headlines related to elections in recent years. However, a number of key races in the Senate will have significant ramifications for former Vice President Joe Biden’s ability to govern if he defeats President Donald Trump. “
It wasn’t too long ago that the Democrats’ prospects of taking control of the Senate looked somewhat strange. But the changing dynamics of the 2020 race brought the Senate into play.
The influx of campaign funds that has dwarfed Republicans in South Carolina has been mirrored elsewhere. Democratic candidates in a diverse list of states like Maine, Montana, Colorado, Iowa, and even reliably Red Kansas have healthy war chests in the weeks leading up to the November 3rd election.
The 44-year-old Democrat from South Carolina has been active in democratic circles for years. But that’s not how it started. Harrison was born when his mother was 15 years old. His father was his mother’s high school boyfriend and was out of the picture for much of his childhood. His grandparents played a huge role in raising it. Harrison grew up poor in Orangeburg, a town of tens of thousands, and graduated from Yale University on a scholarship and from Georgetown University’s law school. Harrison was a teacher, leader of the South Carolina Democratic Party, advisor to South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, and then a lobbyist.
Harrison’s association with Clyburn is a boon in South Carolina. Clyburn is the most influential African American Democrat in Congress, and his support was instrumental in reinvigorating Joe Biden’s presidential campaign during the Democratic primary. Clyburn was cautiously optimistic about Harrison’s chances.
“I think things are breaking in his favor. When we get the turnout that we were working on in South Carolina, ”Clyburn said in an interview with Politico.
At first, the South Carolina Senate race in 2020 seemed like a long way off for the Democrats. The Republicans have controlled both Senate seats in the state for 15 years. But Graham’s close association with Trump and, for others, the late Arizona Senator John McCain, as well as his defense of now Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh during the judicial confirmation hearings, is what Republicans and Democrats now attribute to strong antagonism towards the Senator . Graham is also a golf buddy of Trump.
“I think the reason we’re here is primarily twofold. First, the Democrats just want to control the Senate and demand power, ”said South Carolina Republican strategist Walter Whetsell, who advises a Super-Pac-Backin
Whetsell said Democrats “hate Lindsey Graham for what he did on Kavanaugh. You despise this guy. They want revenge. They want revenge. And you combine those two things and it’s like smoking in a fireworks stand. It’s going to explode, right? “
In an interview with the Guardian, Harrison pointed out that Graham’s seat was occupied by some of the most vocal segregationists in American history. It would be a dramatic contrast for an African American to inherit.
“The seat I vie for is also a seat that has its own story. This is the seat of John C. Calhoun, of Strom Thurmond, a man named Ben Tillman who spoke about lynching of black people in the US Senate. “
Harrison’s latest fundraiser will also show what a Democratic campaign in South Carolina can do with it such a huge amount of money. Harrison said his campaign planned to use the money to flood the zone to win the Democratic seat.
The latest polls from the Senate race show a low single-digit gap between
Harrison and Graham. A poll of the New York Times / Siena College race published Thursday found Graham Harrison leading by six percentage points.
Harrison’s chances in South Carolina now depend in part on whether enough Republicans choose not to vote for Graham, either by not voting at all or by endorsing former Constitutional Party candidate Bill Bledsoe, a Conservative whose name remains despite his departure is still on the ballot and advocated Graham.
Harrison said his party’s success in competing in traditionally conservative states was due to a postponement of candidates nominated by Democrats.
“We are actually competing. We are using people who are not just Republicans, but people who can reflect, motivate and energize the grassroots of the party, but appeal to the independents of the state and moderate Republicans.” That’s part of it, ”said Harrison.
Harrison continued, “But I think part of the anchor we have is that the democratic parties in the south have not been adequately resourced, so candidates like me and Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke don’t just have to do what Candidates usually do, but we also need to do more party function[s] also. I am very proud that my time as chairman of the party over the past few years has been spent rebuilding and revitalizing the party. However, this does not take into account the years of lack of adequate resources. So you have to make it all up to you. “
There have also been demographic changes, Harrison said, pointing out that African Americans are leaving the “industrial Midwest” and moving back south. White college graduates also move to urban centers of the state, which tend to be reliably democratic.
“White retirees with college degrees,” Harrison said. “They congregate in places like Greenville and Charleston, South Carolina. And bring along a much more moderate policy. That gives us the opportunity to assert ourselves. “
When asked what he thought of the prospect of South Carolina becoming the first state with two seated black senators, Harrison said, “It is fair.”
“The point is to show the progress that has been made in this country and great progress has been made. I said in the field it was about closing the book on the old south and writing a brand new book on the new south, ”Harrison said.
He went on to outline this vision. “One that is bold and inclusive and diverse. It is appropriate. If you think about the history of this nation, the first black senators came from the south. Why shouldn’t the first state to have two African American senators come from the south? ” he said. “That makes a lot of sense to me. I feel good that we can make it and make history. “