Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has closely allied himself with President Donald Trump, and this dramatic change of heart — he originally derided Trump in the early days of his presidential candidacy — is coming back to haunt him. Democrat Jaime Harrison’s campaign to unseat Graham is gaining significant momentum in South Carolina, to the point that during the last quarter of 2019, he raised among the most money of Democratic Senate candidates across the country. He pulled in nearly $3.6 million. The only Democratic candidates who raised more were Arizona’s Mark Kelly and Kentucky’s Amy McGrath — the latter of whom is challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Harrison has a long list of accomplishments, including a former role as an aide to the locally popular South Carolina Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn and a role as the first black chair of the South Carolina Democratic party from 2013 to 2017, and currently, he serves as associate chair and counsel of the Democratic National Committee.
At a Charleston campaign event last week, he tied his candidacy to Graham’s avid support for Trump’s controversial U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who was credibly accused of sexual assault prior to his confirmation, among other issues.
‘I can tell you as a black person in South Carolina whose grandparents grew up through Jim Crow, when you lose the courts and justice no longer becomes just, we’re in a world of trouble. And we are on the verge of that. And that’s why this election is the most consequential election of our life.’
Besides Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans like Graham have also been working to appoint large numbers of staunchly conservative judges across the federal judiciary.
Harrison has a long way to go to November, but he’s getting there. In the last quarter of 2019, Graham raised almost $4 million, which sets up his face-off with Harrison in November to be the most expensive U.S. Senate race in South Carolina history, although the state remains definitively leaning rather Republican. The last time the state voted for a Democrat in the presidential race was when Jimmy Carter won against Gerald Ford.
Some suggest that the eventual Democratic presidential primary nominee could affect the success of down-ballot Democratic candidates like Harrison — a more popular nominee might make victory easier for them.
Even still, Gibbs Knotts, a political science professor at the College of Charleston, suggested to CNN:
‘This should be Graham’s most competitive election since his first contest in 2002. But it’s like they’re running a 100-meter dash and Graham is already at the 20-meter mark.’
Issues like the Kavanaugh confirmation have helped galvanize more successful opposition to Republican Senators elsewhere. Maine’s Susan Collins’s re-election race is currently rated as a “toss-up” by the Cook Political Report, which is the same rating that they’ve given the re-election races of both Colorado’s Cory Gardner and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis. They estimate that three more currently GOP-held seats only “lean” Republican, which is the last stop before toss-up status. They currently have Graham’s seat in the “solid” Republican column.