From SC to DC: Jaime Harrison focuses on Democrats’ national goals as new DNC chair

Harrison said he hopes to rally the party around unifying issues like health care and education...
Harrison said he hopes to rally the party around unifying issues like health care and education reform.(WIS)
Updated: Jan. 22, 2021 at 7:50 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Former Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, Jaime Harrison, is now the Chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Harrison, previously an associate chair of the DNC, said he didn’t plan on leading the group when he launched his race against Sen. Lindsey Graham.

“I was focused on winning and being the next senator from the great state of South Carolina,” Harrison told WIS in a one-on-one interview. “But you know, one of the things I learned growing up with my grandparents is when one than when the Lord closes one door, another door opens.”

Harrison thanked Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-SC, and President Joe Biden for thinking of him for this role. He said he plans to speak to the president about the direction of the party in the next few days.

He said he sees his job as twofold: spreading the message about the accomplishments of the Biden-Harris administration to all 50 states, and helping secure a Democratic majority in the U.S. House and Senate in 2022 and 2024.

“We’re going to do that by organizing, we’re going to have boots on the ground in all 50 states. We’re going to engage in a national voter registration initiative,” Harrison said.

The self-proclaimed “Dirt Road Democrat” acknowledges there are a lot of differing views within his own party and said he is proud of the wide range of racial and ethnic backgrounds, regional differences, and differences in opinion among Democrats.

But he said he hopes to rally the party around unifying issues like health care and education reform.

“My job is to keep this party together -- to be united in terms of our purpose, to make sure that we win some seats in 2022,” he explained.

The Democratic Party, which holds a slim majority in the U.S. House and a 50-50 split in the Senate, has already faced some backlash for actions taken during the first couple of days of the Biden administration.

Harrison says any talk of Democrat overreach is unfounded.

“There’s a lot of cleanup that needs to happen. And we’ve seen it with the coronavirus in particular,” he said. “My colleagues that have walked into the White House, they have told me, ‘Jaime, it is a disaster.’ The past administration did not have a game plan to make sure that Americans can receive this COVID vaccine so it’s almost like starting anew because there was no plan.”

Harrison also says even though he is on his way to DC, he still plans to use his newly formed Dirt Road PAC to help fund future South Carolina Democratic candidates running for the U.S. Senate.

“I hope someone will do the same thing for the governorship,” he said. “It’s important that Democrats continue to build in this great state. We didn’t get to the promised land in 2020, on my Senate race, but we made a lot of headway.”

He also acknowledges that between Biden’s close ties to South Carolina, Clyburn’s role as a friend of the president’s and as U.S. House Whip, and Harrison’s role as DNC chair -- South Carolina holds a lot of power in Washington.

“We’re a small state but we pack a heck of a punch, and we were going to demonstrate that under the Biden administration,” he said.

And the now-Chairman thinks that power might turn into policy.

“It will not surprise me if you see that Jim Clyburn’s 10-20-30 plan gets enacted,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me that Jim Clyburn’s broadband plan to bring broadband into rural communities gets enacted. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a stronger and more vibrant Democratic Party in the state of South Carolina. That is because we’re going to roll up our sleeves and do all that we can to improve the state that we call home.”

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