Ex-SC Democratic chairman launches Senate bid against Lindsey Graham

Jaime Harrison, a former lobbyist who served as the first African American chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, announced Wednesday he would challenge Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions Trump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition MORE (R-S.C.) for his seat in 2020.

Harrison, who serves as an associate chair of the Democratic National Committee, declared his candidacy in a video posted online in which he accused Graham of political opportunism for flip-flopping in his support for President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE.

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“Here’s a guy who will say anything to stay in office. Lindsey Graham can’t lead us in any direction, because he traded his moral compass for petty political gain,” Harrison said in the announcement video, adding that the senator’s shift to supporting President Trump was “comical.”

“I remember a time when senators helped the people they represented,” he added. “I want to bring the spirit of helping back, and that’s why I am running for the United States Senate.”

Harrison’s candidacy has been months in the making. He formed a committee to explore a potential Senate run in February and met with numerous Democratic politicians, including Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.).

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Harrison outlined his campaign strategy, saying he planned to court voters across the political spectrum by pitching his candidacy as focused on constituent services.

“When people are faced with challenges — just the day to day challenges of living in this country and being working class or poor — and they don’t have a place to turn, they should be able to turn to their own senator’s office,” he said.

Still, Harrison is likely to face an uphill battle in his bid against Graham. Trump won South Carolina by 14 points in 2016 and remains more popular than not in the Palmetto State.

At the same time, Graham, once a fierce critic of Trump, has cast himself more recently as an ardent ally of the president.

“Harrison is a looney liberal who was hand-picked to run by radical Washington Democrats,” Nathan Brand, a spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said. “Lindsey Graham is one of the most popular U.S. Senators in the country because South Carolina voters know that has delivered results and has been a tireless fighter for Palmetto State values.”

But Harrison pointed to other states won by Trump that elected Democrats to various offices in 2018. For instance, in Kansas, a state that Trump carried by more than 20 points, Democrat Laura Kelly defeated Republican Kris Kobach in 2018, Harrison said.

What’s more, Harrison argued that the South is on the verge of a political “renaissance” for Democrats, driven by political figures like Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, and Andrew Gillum, who ran for governor in Florida last year.

“They made true believers out of folks and what I want to do is stand on their shoulders,” Harrison told The Hill.

Harrison also said that the 2020 presidential election could work in his favor. South Carolina is a crucial early primary state and the first to vote in the presidential nominating contest where a majority of the Democratic electorate is African American, meaning that Harrison could get a bump from the organizing and attention that comes with a high-profile presidential race.

He said he has spoken with most of the declared candidates in the Democratic presidential field and has provided them with names and résumés of potential campaign staffers, as well as advice on how to run in South Carolina.

But Harrison said his main focus is to lay the foundation for future Democratic wins in the Palmetto State.

“At the end of the day, I want South Carolina to be better after these candidates have left the state,” he told The Hill. “I want to build a new infrastructure in the state.”

Updated 5 p.m.