The Truth About Jaime Harrison

Of all the senate races that have gone from being a sure win for one party or another, one of the most surprising battles is being fought in South Carolina, where Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison is giving Republican long-time Senator Lindsey Graham a run for his money. Graham might have served in the U.S. Senate since 2003 and won his last re-election by more than 15 points, but Harrison became a sensation for breaking the highest quarterly fundraising total for a U.S. Senate candidate in history when he raised $57 million between July and September (via Time).

Jaime Harrison is benefiting from public discontent against his opponent, who, in the words of one South Carolina voter, "... seems to have lost the spirit of service to his constituents" (via The Washington Post). By contrast, "Jaime seems like a man of faith and truth." Graham is also getting hit because he isn't seen to be focusing on local issues. "The urgency to get Supreme Court justices through, or tea time with the President, or going on Fox News — all those things are much higher on the priority level for Lindsey Graham than addressing the issues people are dealing with," Harrison tells Time.

Jaime Harrison is known for his inspiring story

The Economist positions Jaime Harrison, who once served as the head of the South Carolina Democrats, as the poster child for the party. The aspiring senator, like the party's presidential challenger Joe Biden, is viewed as a consensus builder who has used his inspiring story to get the voters' attention- and it is an inspiring story indeed. 

Harrison traces his interest in politics to his grandfather. "That's where it started, I would pepper him with questions about the president and I became very interested in politics," he tells The Economist. His mother was 16 and single when she had him, and Harrison was raised by his grandparents in Orangeburg County, an impoverished part of the state, and the site of a racial massacre in 1968 (via CNN). Harrison even recalls eating cereal with water because his family couldn't afford milk (via Time). "I think I got my pragmatism from them. I know I'm not going to get everything I want. But anything gained is positive movement," he said.

Harrison got a full ride at Yale University; after he graduated, he taught geography at his old high school before joining a nonprofit that works to send low-income high school students to college. He received his law degree from Georgetown in 2004.

Jaime Harrison is no stranger to Washington politics

Jaime Harrison is no stranger to Washington politics. He worked in the office of South Carolina House Representative James Clyburn between 2003 to 2008; and he also has extensive experience as a lobbyist. CNN says he worked for the Podesta Group from 2008 and 2016. He became chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party in 2013, and since 2017, he has been an associate chair of the Democratic National Committee. 

That experience has served him well. One political activist calls Harrison's campaign highly organized and extremely efficient, and Harrison is running on a platform of issues that resonate with local voters, including access to healthcare, helping local farmers, and improving rural schools. "[Harrison's campaign] had to be flawless, and it has been. It's purely based on energizing the base and reminding South Carolinians, no matter their political stature, what Lindsey has not done for them," pro-Biden super PAC official Amanda Loveday tells Time.  

Jaime Harrison's popularity partly is fueled by public distrust of Lindsey Graham

But In the end, it seems to boil down to character. As veteran South Carolina anchorman Bill Sharpe put it, "Senator Lindsey Graham tried to paint Jaime Harrison as a liberal. A friend of Nancy Pelosi. Too liberal for the state of South Carolina. Jaime Harrison on the other hand said to Senator Graham, 'Senator where I grew up your word was your bond. You have broken your word specifically on the supreme court and when you were permitting the nomination Amy [Coney] Barrett to be perhaps the next justice of the supreme court.' So that's what stood out to me" (via Live 5 News). 

Whether Harrison manages to vanquish Lindsey Graham is anyone's guess. But even if Harrison ends up losing to Graham, his campaign has already done something for the people of his state — he's inspired them to seek public office. 

"I know at least two people, including myself, who are considering running for statewide office because of what Harrison has done," South Carolina state senator Marlon Kimpson tells CNN. "So many people are rooting for him because they see themselves in him."