Harrison feeling the love

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Democrat looking to unseat Lindsey Graham had record-breaking fundraising quarter

By MINDY LUCAS

By Mindy Lucas

Despite an early morning downpour, about 250 to 300 people turned out to hear Democrat and U.S. Senate hopeful Jaime Harrison speak in Bluffton on Saturday, Jan. 11.

Harrison addressed those gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Lowcountry for about 30 minutes in a speech that touched on such issues as healthcare and education, but was also interspersed with stories of growing up poor, the son of a single, teenage mother, raised by his grandparents in his native Orangeburg.

While many who attended Saturday’s event said they were impressed with Harrison’s hardscrabble upbringing, they were also keenly interested in learning how he plans to unseat three-term Senator Lindsey Graham in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate in more than two decades. 

“They say you can’t beat the President’s best friend,” Harrison said to laughter and applause. “Well my friends, we’re going to give him a one-way ticket to Mar-a-Lago.”

A Yale University and Georgetown Law graduate, Harrison is the former chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party, and is currently an associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He launched his senate campaign earlier in 2019 and held a kickoff rally in Orangeburg at the end of September.

Fred Compton, a retired educator and self-described “registered Republican,” attended both the Orangeburg rally and Saturday’s event. Compton said he was impressed with Harrison and had even bought a T-shirt at the kickoff.

“And I don’t buy T-shirts,” he said.

Chief among the issues that are important to him, Compton said, are term limits – he thinks Graham has been in office for too long.

“I believe we need a change,” he said.

The Bluffton resident apparently isn’t alone in his belief.

Harrison’s campaign raised more than $3.5 million in the last quarter of 2019, more than any candidate for a single quarter in South Carolina history, his campaign recently announced.

The average contribution was $27. Donations came from 67,000 individual donors, and 112,000 different contributions, including contributions from every county in the state, the campaign said.

Harrison also has some serious backers. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., who Harrison worked for as a senior aide when Clyburn was the U.S. House Majority Whip, has endorsed him as well as former S.C. Democratic Governor Jim Hodges.

Among the issues Harrison talked about on Saturday were healthcare, education and student loan debt.

On healthcare, Harrison talked about South Carolina communities that have lost their area’s only hospital, the lack of OB-GYNs in rural areas and the lack of access to service by many more.

“Almost 300,000 people should have healthcare right now in South Carolina if the Republicans would pass the Medicaid expansion, and they won’t.”

On education, he said South Carolina’s teachers were underpaid, weren’t respected and that mounting college debt was going to have a “dramatic drag” on the economy.

He also talked about rebuilding the public’s trust in the political process.

“This election is not about Donald Trump. It’s not about Lindsey Graham. It’s about the thousands of people across this state and the millions of people across this nation who have given up all hope,” he said.

He called for South Carolinians to unite and referenced South Carolina’s motto, “While I breathe, I hope.”

“The only way we win is if we all work together,” he said. “And if we all do every single thing within our power to bring hope back to South Carolina.”

Q & A with Jaime Harrison

By Mindy Lucas

U.S. Senate candidate and Democrat Jaime Harrison made a recent appearance in Bluffton following a campaign stop in Lancaster County.

The stops are part of a 46-county campaign tour in an effort to unseat longtime Senator Lindsey Graham.

Harrison talked to The Island News in an exclusive one-on-one after that appearance.

What do you think your chances are of beating Lindsey Graham?

Harrison: If I didn’t think I could, I wouldn’t be in this. I am a very pragmatic guy. There is a path. Now is it tough? Yes. It’s going to be tough beating an entrenched incumbent. But right now, I think people are hungry for something different.

They are ready for someone who has a vision for where we’re going to take South Carolina into the 21st century instead of the status quo or versus someone who is focused on being important in Washington, D.C.

And that’s what Lindsey’s done. On all of the Washington, D.C. issues, he wants to be in front of a camera, and he wants to be quoted in the newspaper. For me, I don’t care about that stuff. If I know I am improving the life of somebody in South Carolina, that’s relevant enough for me.

As you’ve been traveling around the state, what are South Carolinians telling you is important to them?

Harrison: Health care is the No. 1 issue I hear about. People are very concerned with the quality of health care in the state. They are very concerned with the fact that these rural hospitals are closing, the cost of prescription drugs.

All of those things are things that keep people up at night because it has real repercussions. And right now, it’s something that is impacting Democrats and Republicans. It doesn’t know one party or the other, doesn’t know one race or the other. Everybody is having issues or, at least, if they’re not having them, then they know a family member or close friend who is having issues in the health care space.

Right now, health in South Carolina is expensive. Republicans, including Lindsey Graham, have stood in the way and fought against Medicaid expansion, and, as a result, that has driven up the cost of healthcare in this state and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Infrastructure is a huge issue in this state. Many of our poor rural counties have aging infrastructure and are falling apart, but they don’t have the resources to replace it.

Many of these communities are drying up and dying because there aren’t any opportunities for the young people that live in those communities, so they grow up in the community, they leave and they never come back.

So we need a Senator right now who has a vision for making sure that our rural communities remain vibrant, making sure they have the infrastructure that they need, that their hospitals don’t go away, that they can connect to the Internet, all of the things – the fundamentals that you have to have to be a vibrant community – those are things that I want to fight for, and Lindsey Graham doesn’t have the time for.

You seemed genuinely surprised by the turnout and crowd’s reaction when you walked in today. (Harrison’s arrival in the midst of the Unitarian Universalist’s meeting, was marked with applause and cheers). What did you think about that?

Harrison: When I drove up, I was like, “Gosh is this all for us?” And then I walk in here, and I did not expect that. I had no idea that was going to happen, and it was similar to Lancaster. As I said, something is going on here in South Carolina right now. And the winds of change are blowing and I think across the country, and I think they’re going to blow through South Carolina on Election Day.