Jaime Harrison — Sen. Lindsey Graham’s likely Democratic challenger in the fall’s election — believes he has the strategy to flip the Senate seat in a slightly bluer South Carolina.
The 44-year-old Democratic operative and current Democratic National Committee associate chair helped Doug Jones win the Alabama Senate seat once filled by Jeff Sessions, and he believes he’s got the recipe to win over voters in the conservative Southern state, reported Mother Jones.
“I think [the Democratic spirit] is alive and well all across the South,” Harrison said. “The real question is getting people to believe that it’s possible here. People have a little sliver of hope, and now it’s important for me to take that sliver and turn it into a roaring flame.”
Harrison makes little mention of his opponent — a three-term senator and staunch defender of President Donald Trump — while out on the campaign trail, and instead tries to show would-be voters how what happens in Washington matters in their own lives.
“There’s nobody who can out-progressive me in terms of understanding the hardships of poverty,” Harrison told Mother Jones. “I’ve known it, I’ve seen it, I’ve touched it, I’ve tasted it, I’ve eaten it my entire life, and when I go into communities, poor black folks look at me and say, ‘Jaime, I would be so blessed if I can raise my kids and they grow up to do the things you’ve been able to do.’”
Harrison was tasked with developing the party’s Southern strategy by DNC chair Tom Perez in Jones’ Senate race against Roy Moore, and he developed a plan for turning out a diverse black voter bloc that he had previously tested during a House special election in South Carolina.
“He emphasized how important it was to work alongside local folks who really understood that black voters aren’t a monolith,” said Doug Turner, a senior adviser for Jones’ campaign.
It worked, and Jones narrowly won after turning out a staggering 30 percent of black voters — and Harrison thinks it can be repeated in other states.
“The votes are here,” Harrison said. “The question is, can we change the mentality?”
Harrison’s campaign says it raised a South Carolina record $3.5 million in the last months of 2019, and a December poll showed him only 2 points behind Graham, but his campaign remains a long shot in the Trump-loving state.
“You can win in the South, but in order to win, you have to invest,” Harrison said. “You have such large pockets of African American voters, and the big thing is you have to persuade them that an election is important enough for them to come out and vote.”