COLUMBIA — Former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison is on pace to quickly outraise U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham's last Democratic challenger, but the senator who has become one of Donald Trump's most reliable allies maintains a substantial early edge.
Harrison told The Post and Courier on Tuesday that he raised $231,000 since forming his exploratory committee on Feb. 7. The haul came from 3,100 donations, averaging $75 per donor.
The prospective candidate still has a long way to go before he can come close to catching up with Graham’s existing war chest. The incumbent Seneca Republican had more than $3.2 million in the bank at the end of 2018.
A 43-year-old Orangeburg native, Harrison said it is “humbling” to see early support for his potential bid.
“People recognize that it takes all of us working together to address the issues that affect real people in South Carolina,” he said. “We’re not concerned with D.C. grandstanding and who got the latest soundbite on Fox News. Here in South Carolina, we worry about steady jobs, good schools, and quality healthcare.”
Harrison's figures are far lower than the $650,000 that U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-Charleston, reported raising in the first quarter Monday, though Cunningham did have the advantages of a longer fundraising period and an existing fundraising list as an incumbent.
S.C. GOP chairman Drew McKissick suggested Harrison's early fundraising shows Graham has nothing to worry about as he pursues a fourth term in office.
“National liberals may want to target Sen. Graham because he’s a conservative leader, but Mr. Harrison’s anemic fundraising proves that his support of the Green New Deal and opposition to conservative judges doesn't sell in South Carolina," McKissick said.
A spokesman for Graham’s campaign said staff is still counting his fundraising haul from the first quarter of 2019, and he is not required to file it with the Federal Election Commission until April 15.
Graham's Democratic challenger in 2014, state Sen. Brad Hutto of Orangeburg, raised $450,000 over the course of his entire campaign en route to losing by 18 percent.
A reliable ally of President Donald Trump, Graham recently campaigned with Vice President Mike Pence, indicating that the White House will fully support for his reelection bid.
Harrison recently held a town hall in Columbia on the student loan debt crisis, the first of a series that he said he plans to hold in the lead-up to his likely campaign launch.