Democrats formally elect Harrison as new DNC chair

Jaime Harrison, the former South Carolina Senate candidate who shattered fundraising records, has been elected as the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), succeeding Tom Perez as the party’s top officer. 

Harrison, who mounted a high-profile yet ultimately unsuccessful bid to oust Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) last year, was President Biden’s choice for the top job at the DNC. He was elected in a near-unanimous vote at the group’s winter meeting Thursday afternoon.

“In spite of everything we’ve been through in the past year, I am excited, because today we are embarking on a new mission to build back better and bring hope back to this great nation,” Harrison said after the election results were announced. 

In an acceptance speech, Harrison acknowledged that Democrats would face challenging election cycles in the coming years, given that the party now controls the White House and both chambers of Congress.

“I have no intention of letting victory turn into complacency, because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t invest everywhere,” he said. He committed the party to a “50-state and seven-territory strategy,” vowing to compete in areas where Democrats are typically written off. 

“We are done looking at the map, ignoring the red while we focus on a few purple areas,” Harrison said. “We are done with just focusing on our cities while forgetting those who live on dirt roads.”

“We are no more or less than the 50 states and seven territories,” he added. “And in spite of our differences, our total is one big and beautiful nation looking for leadership, looking for opportunity, looking for hope.”

Harrison is taking the helm of the DNC at a time of ascendancy for Democrats, who won control of both the White House and Congress in a bitter and bruising election cycle that pushed the country’s politics to the brink.

Despite former President Trump’s loss in November, the Republican National Committee (RNC) voted earlier this month to reelect Ronna McDaniel as its chair, moving to retain a staunch Trump ally as its top officer.

While Republicans are grappling with their recent fall from power, Democrats are in a somewhat precarious position, as well.

Democrats’ control of the Senate hinges on Vice President Harris casting the deciding vote in the event of a tie, and the party is entering 2021 with a narrower House majority than it had a month ago, leaving little room for error in next year’s midterm elections.

Harrison said that Democrats would need to plan not only for 2022, but “for the next 10 years,” committing long-term to building out the party’s infrastructure, particularly in areas and among communities that have drifted away from the Democratic Party. 

“We are the party of working people and we cannot take them for granted,” he said. “It’s on us to win back our union brothers and sisters and their families. It’s on us to take action for the people of color who consistently give us their support. It’s on us to reach out to rural voters who don’t feel heard by our party. It’s on us to inspire the young people who are just starting out to place their trust in us.”

Shortly before Harrison’s acceptance speech on Thursday, Perez, the DNC’s outgoing chair, predicted “tough days” ahead for Democrats, arguing that the party’s best defense against a midterm trashing will be to “deliver” on their campaign promises.

“We know we’re going to have hard days ahead,” Perez said. “We’ve got challenges that I’ve already articulated. We know in midterm election cycles when we have the house and the senate and the White House, sometimes you run into headwinds.”

“But you know the best way to offset that is to make sure we deliver for the American people,” he continued. “Deliver results.”

Tags Democratic National Committee DNC Chair DNC winter meeting Donald Trump Jaime Harrison Joe Biden Lindsey Graham Republican National Committee RNC Ronna McDaniel Tom Perez
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