Former Lindsey Graham donor flips to back Democratic opponent in Senate race

A former top donor to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and business executive is jumping across the aisle to support Democrat Jaime Harrison in South Carolina’s Senate race. 

Richard Wilkerson, the former chairman and president of Michelin’s operations in North America, said he has known Harrison for years and is confident he can “bring lasting economic opportunity to the people of South Carolina.” 

“I am confident that as our next U.S. Senator he will be a tireless advocate for creating well-paying jobs, improving our state’s healthcare system, and training the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow. Jaime is the perfect candidate to bring together South Carolinians from all walks of life. I am proud to endorse Jaime today, and I know first hand he is the change South Carolina needs,” Wilkerson said in a statement Tuesday.

Wilkerson’s role allowed him to oversee Michelin’s operations in South Carolina, which employed nearly 10,000 employees, according to local media. Wilkerson was listed as a member of Graham’s South Carolina finance committee during his short-lived presidential run and has donated more than $10,000 to the South Carolina Republican since 2011, according to finance records. 

Wilkerson, however, also has a history of giving to Democrats, including James Smith’s and Vincent Sheheen’s gubernatorial campaigns.

Graham remains the heavy favorite in the Palmetto State’s race, having won by 17 percent in 2014, but Harrison is working to gin up support among Democratic donors across the country and outraised Graham in the first quarter of 2020.

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of Dick Wilkerson, one of South Carolina’s most respected business leaders,” Harrison said. “I look forward to working with all of our state’s business leaders to bring back hope to residents of the Palmetto State by building a 21st century economy for all.”

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the South Carolina race as “solid” Republican.

Tags 2020 elections 2020 Senate races Lindsey Graham South Carolina

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