COLUMBIA — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham's Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison outraised the incumbent Republican for the first time in the race over the initial three months of 2020, setting a South Carolina campaign fundraising record in the process.
Harrison brought in $7.36 million to Graham's $5.6 million, according to releases from the campaigns Wednesday night, meaning both of them easily outpaced the single-quarter state record of $3.9 million that Graham set at the end of 2019.
The huge hauls bring Graham's campaign war chest up to $12.8 million and Harrison's to $8 million as the candidates gear up for what is on pace to become by far the most expensive race in South Carolina history.
"We’re so grateful for this outpouring of support from everyday people who are looking for leadership that puts them first," said Harrison campaign spokesman Guy King.
Graham's campaign noted that his figures came despite a decision to cancel fundraisers during the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump and to suspend his fundraising operations for the final two weeks of the quarter as the coronavirus pandemic spread.
"South Carolinians clearly appreciate Sen. Graham’s steadfast leadership, conservative record of accomplishment, and relentless work on behalf of his constituents," said Scott Farmer, Graham's campaign manager.
Facing the best-funded Democratic challenger of his political career, Graham has been forced to up his fundraising game as he pursues a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.
Harrison, a former S.C. Democratic Party chairman, recently went up with his first wave of television ads, focused on introducing himself to the many South Carolina voters who are still unfamiliar with him.
Cash from around the country has flowed into the Palmetto State race at a consistently heavy clip despite the fact that nonpartisan election analysts still rate the seat as a safe Republican hold, less competitive than more than a dozen other U.S. Senate races across the country.
That may be attributed in large part to Graham's increasingly polarizing reputation, loathed by Democrats eager to unseat him but beloved by Republicans riding to his defense.
Only two Republican senators raised more than Graham in the first quarter of 2020: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who is locked in a fiercely contested race.
Graham will face three Republican opponents in the June primary, but none are expected to pose a substantial threat. Harrison is unopposed for the Democratic nod.