South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham wins 4th Senate bid

The incumbent defeated Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, an associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has secured a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.

The incumbent defeated Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, an associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Harrison’s massive fundraising broke records in the race, allowing the challenger to dominate airwaves and mount a significant ground effort. Some polling in the campaign’s closing weeks showed a head-to-head race.

Read More: 2020 election: Biden, Trump score wins, but battlegrounds too early to call

But Graham mustered support across South Carolina, where all statewide offices are held by Republicans and support for President Donald Trump remains strong.

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he occupied a national television platform for days during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — After a monthslong deluge of advertising, attacks and animosity, voters are choosing between Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison in South Carolina’s most expensive Senate contest.

Seeking his fourth term, Graham on Tuesday faced his most stalwart general election opponent to date in Harrison, a fundraising powerhouse and associate Democratic National Committee chairman who also chaired the state Democratic Party and worked as a lobbyist.

The contest has been propelled by an onslaught of spending from both candidates and a slew of third-party groups.

Republican incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks to supporters at the Charleston County Victory Office during a campaign bus tour on October 31, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. Graham is in a closely watched race against democratic challenger Jaime Harrison. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

Graham told The Associated Press on Saturday that he also has raised about $100 million, and his third-quarter haul of $28 million represented a quarterly record for any GOP Senate candidate.

Having defeated all previous opponents by double-digit margins, Graham acknowledges, “This is the biggest challenge that I have ever faced,” with some polls showing a neck-and-neck contest.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, Harrison’s self-described “political dad” and mentor, described the Democrat’s campaign as a textbook example of how to develop and implement a winning agenda. He predicted a “good night for Democrats” up and down the ticket.

“Holding the House would just be status quo,” Clyburn told reporters outside a polling place in Columbia. “Winning the Senate would make it good.”

Tim Orr, an asphalt contractor from Lexington, said he was voting to reelect President Donald Trump after a small business loan and his $1,200 stimulus check helped keep him afloat following the pandemic.

Orr, 63, was less enthusiastic about Graham, citing his uneven support of Trump, but didn’t want to throw the race to Harrison.

“He’s got to be left where he’s at,” he said of Graham.

Helen Sims, 49, who works at a Wal-Mart, cast her ballot for Harrison on Tuesday, saying Graham should have helped Americans struggling through the pandemic before prioritizing the Supreme Court hearings. She said Harrison’s upbringing and his youthful energy will lead to better outcomes for working people.

“We have walked in Jaime’s shoes,” said Sims, who is Black. “Jaime’s compassionate.”

Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison adjusts his mask while speaking to the media after a drive-in rally on October 17, 2020 in North Charleston, South Carolina. Harrison is running against incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). (Photo by Cameron Pollack/Getty Images)

The astronomic money has amounted to constant digital and broadcast advertising, as well as mailers. Harrison has used some of his copious cash to try to steer conservative voters toward Bill Bledsoe — a Constitution Party candidate who dropped out to endorse Graham, but whose name remains on ballots — in an attempt to cleave votes from the Republican. Bledsoe has asked Harrison to “cease and desist” from what he calls dishonest “dirty tricks” advertising.

The undercurrent of the recent battle over Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s third U.S. Supreme Court nominee, has also been a factor. As Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Graham oversaw that contentious process, where televised hearings kept him in the national spotlight for weeks.

Harrison, meanwhile, has portrayed the 65-year-old Graham as a career politician too far removed from his constituents’ lives.

“It seems like our senator doesn’t understand the dignity of hard work because instead of working hard for South Carolina, he goes golfing with the president,” Harrison said during a recent Columbia drive-in rally.

Harrison, 44, has also highlighted Graham’s previous opposition to election-year high court nominations, including a 2018 video in which he said, “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election.”

His reversal after Barrett’s nomination, Harrison has said, means Graham’s “word is worthless.”

Throughout his 25-year Capitol Hill career, Graham has handily defeated primary challengers who accused him of not being conservative enough for the state, where Republicans control both legislative chambers and hold all statewide offices and most congressional seats.

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Graham was too conciliatory, critics argued, too ready to work out bipartisan deals. But his burgeoning relationship with Trump has helped elevate his own position with some of those detractors. A group composed of voters from myriad organizations with tea party roots held a press conference to endorse the senator against Harrison, citing anti-abortion issues and Graham’s work to confirm conservative justices as some of their reasons.

More than a million South Carolinians have already voted in this year’s general election, with absentee voting obliterating records from 2016. One of them, 72-year-old Harold Riggs of Lexington, said he was disappointed several years ago by Graham’s anti-Trump statements but said that now Graham has proven his loyalty to the president, noting his leadership during Barrett’s confirmation.

Of Harrison, Riggs said, “He’s telling all kinds of lies.”

“Even though he’s got a sweet smile,” his wife, Joyce, interjected.

___

Michelle Liu, a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative, contributed to this report from Lexington, S.C. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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