South Carolina's Jaime Harrison throwing new PAC weight behind Democrats. First stop: Georgia

©The State (Columbia, S.C.)

U.S. senate candidate Jaime Harrison speaks to the crowd during the King Day celebration at the Dome March and rally on Jan. 20, 2020 in Columbia, South Carolina. - Sean Rayford/Getty Images North America/TNS

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Proving he can raise money beyond his own run, South Carolina’s Jaime Harrison is launching a new political action committee that will raise funds for Democratic efforts following his Senate campaign that raised more than $130 million.

The first spending phase of Harrison’s the Dirt Road PAC will start in Georgia, a state that went blue this year by voting for Democratic President-elect Joe Biden and where two U.S. Senate races could give Democrats control in both Capitol chambers.

Harrison named his group the Dirt Road PAC after a story he told while on the campaign trail where he knocked on the door of a Black man who lived on a dirt road that had not been paved.

In Georgia, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are seeking to unseat Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in Georgia’s Jan. 5 U.S. Senate runoffs. Should they win the Senate would be split 50-50, handing over the tie-breaking vote to Vice-President elect Kamala Harris.

Before the PAC, Harrison had already raised $450,000 for Ossoff’s and Warnock’s campaigns.

But the new PAC money, Harrison said, will help drive up voter registration in hard-to-reach areas of the state and other Georgia Democratic Party efforts. Harrison said it’ll also go directly to the Ossoff and Warnock campaigns.

After Georgia’s runoff, the PAC will shift its attention to investing in grassroots campaigning in next year’s Virginia elections, the next immediate focus for Democrats because of the state’s gubernatorial and legislative elections.

“For as long as I’ve been involved in Democratic politics, it’s about building capacity in communities and making sure that we’re investing in candidates and making sure that they have all the resources that are important in order to compete,” Harrison said in an interview with The State. “So it’s pretty clear to me that just swooping in every few years with a new candidate and no existing grassroots infrastructure … isn’t working. That’s not enough. So to succeed, we have to invest in deep, authentic organizing all year round, and we have (to) invest in the digital tools to really help us succeed in these elections.”

Harrison has the ability to back up his fundraising commitment.

He set an all-time record for a U.S. Senate candidate in his Nov. 3 race against Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. Though Harrison lost to Graham, 54% to 44%, in a campaign that garnered national attention, it proved the former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman’s ability to tap into nationwide network of donors.

Harrison isn’t alone in fundraising for Georgia’s Senate candidates.

Graham, who raised his own hefty sum during his reelection bid, has so far raised $3 million and sent $1 million to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and $1 million each for Loeffler and Perdue.

The new PAC also may help Harrison build his case of taking over the Democratic National Committee.

Harrison is in the running to be the next DNC chairman, after chairman Tom Perez announced his plans not to run for reelection. Harrison’s former boss, U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn — the third-ranking Democrat in the chamber — is reportedly backing Harrison for the job.

On Monday, Harrison would not say whether starting the PAC was meant to boost his resume for the job. But Harrison, who previously ran for DNC chair in 2017, said it would be a great opportunity to rebuild and revitalize the party.

“If at the end of the day my number is called by President-elect Biden to chair the DNC, I’ll take the job. I’ll do the job,” said Harrison, who is an associate DNC chairman. “I have a background to do the job. I’ve been a state party chair, I’ve been a candidate who’s raised a tremendous amount of money, I’ve worked on Capitol Hill, I know a lot of members of Congress, and I’ve worked with grassroots organizations. And … I believe I have a great resume in order to really move forward and do some good things.”

Despite the potential new job, Harrison intends to make the PAC a long-term strategy for the national Democrats to help shift minds over a long period of time rather than in one election cycle.

“You can’t also look at it as if you don’t win in one cycle that means then you just give up,” Harrison said. “If that was the case Republicans wouldn’t be in the majority here in South Carolina. You don’t build Rome in a day. You don’t flip the state like South Carolina overnight. Republicans didn’t do it when we went from Democratic control to Republican control. We won’t do it either. It has to be systemic, it has to be long term, and that’s what I’m committed to.”


©2020 The State (Columbia, S.C.)