EXCLUSIVE: Harrison reacts to criticism, discusses rural agenda, and attacks Graham for not wearing a mask

EXCLUSIVE: Harrison reacts to criticism, discusses rural agenda, and attacks Graham for not wearing a mask
Democratic hopeful Jaime Harrison is facing longtime Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham for his seat in the U.S. Senate. (Source: WIS)

ROWESVILLE, S.C. (WIS) - Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison released a plan Friday focused on helping rural communities.

The rural agenda calls for expanding broadband access, creating “rural centers of excellence,” and expanding Medicaid across the state, which Harrison said will improve rural hospitals.

Harrison acknowledges the plan will require bipartisan support, but he is willing to work across the aisle to get it done.

“If Nancy Pelosi or Mitch McConnell or if Donald Trump is for broadband in South Carolina, then they’re with Jamie Harrison,” he said.

Speaking at a farm in Orangeburg County, the same county where Harrison was raised, he spoke about the importance of campaigning in all of the state’s counties.

“It’s about focusing on the people of South Carolina,” Harrison said. “It’s not just Democratic supporters. It’s from Republicans. It’s from Independents. it’s for people who want to bring back to the state, people who want to unify us,” the Democratic hopeful added.

Both Graham and Harrison have raised nearly $30 million dollars for their campaign, which allows both campaigns to air frequent television and digital ads.

An ad from the Graham campaign airing now calls Harrison a “liberal Democrat” and ties Harrison to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California).

“They’re not voting for Nancy Pelosi. They’re voting for Jamie Harrison,” Harrison responded. “I’m a good ole Southern boy who was raised by his grandparents and my grandparents always taught me the value of working with other folks respecting people and treating them in a manner that I want to be treated.”

However, that mentality has not stopped Harrison from frequently going after Lindsey Graham for “playing Washington games.”

The Graham campaign previously refuted this claim in an email to WIS by noting the senator has spent time over the past couple of weeks touring local factories, working to bring PPE production to South Carolina, and met with officials at the Port of Charleston.

“Senator Graham is leading and getting results for the state,” Graham spokesperson T.W. Arrighi wrote.

On Friday, Harrison called out Graham for appearing without a mask at the White House during President Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention.

“Just last night, Lindsey Graham was in a crowd with 200 people and he was not wearing a mask. Now think about it… He’s gonna fly to South Carolina and then, he’s gonna go and meet all of these other folks across South Carolina. What is he doing?” Harrison asked.

The Graham campaign defended the Senator and added Harrison did not mention protestors outside the White House who were not wearing masks.

“Sen. Graham wore his mask much of the night and continues to encourage everyone to wear a mask, socially distance, and wash their hands,” said Arrighi.

If Harrison were to win, South Carolina would make history as the first state to send two Black men to the U.S. Senate. Harrison said he thinks he would work well with Sen. Tim Scott if he were elected.

“In the same way that Strom Thurmond and Fritz Hollings did, I think Tim Scott and Jaime Harrison will work together to move South Carolina forward,” Harrison said.

To secure that win, the Harrison campaign has built a robust digital operation. However, University of South Carolina communication professor Augie Grant believes Harrison’s emails will turn off potential voters.

“Harrison bombarded me (and I presume others) with up to half a dozen emails a day for months. Instead of having an easy opt-out, the contract firm he uses requires you to input an email address before being opted out. I don’t know if it is a coincidence, but every time I tried to opt-out, I would start getting messages from another candidate or PAC affiliated with that party,” Grant said.

He added he believes if Harrison loses the election it will because his digital team is creating a negative impression of the candidate.

“I’m not a fan of Lindsey Graham, but I cannot see myself voting for a person who can’t do something as simple as respect the voters that he is trying to attract,” Grant added.

Harrison doesn’t believe this will be a make-or-break issue for his race.

“If pushing unsubscribe on an email is the one predominant issue you are dealing with right now, that means you have good things going on in your life,” Harrison said.

However, in his interview with WIS, Harrison said he will bring up the concern with his digital team. Right now, he is concentrating on campaigning and connecting with S.C. voters during these difficult times.

Harrison said he hopes to be able to contrast his views with Graham in the near future and proposed four debates with Graham. The Democratic candidate said he wants one of those debates to be hosted a South Carolina HBCU.

WIS has reached out to the Graham campaign for comment on potential debates and offered them a one-on-one interview when it is convenient for them.

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