Graham Triumphs in Reelection Bid

Judiciary Committee chairman wins reelection after paving the way for Justice Barrett

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November 3, 2020

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) defeated liberal challenger Jaime Harrison in a race that became an unlikely target for Democratic leaders working to flip the upper chamber.

Graham led by roughly 10 points when the Associated Press called the race Tuesday evening. The Republican was expected to cruise to reelection in a state President Donald Trump won by 14 points in 2016. But after Harrison—a former lobbyist with ties to top congressional Democrats—twice reported raising more than $1 million a day in September, Graham himself discussed his vulnerability in a slew of television appearances.

Graham fended off the challenge in part by portraying Harrison as out of touch with South Carolina voters. The Democrat racked up millions in assets during his time at the now-defunct Podesta Group, which saw him lobby for a number of corporate giants and even counsel foreign lobbyists at a Turkish "lobbying school." Graham also benefited from October's highly visible Supreme Court confirmation hearings, where he guided Amy Coney Barrett to the nation's top court as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Harrison's campaign at times faced internal turmoil. Republicans criticized two of the Democrat's top staffers for making anti-Semitic, sexist, and homophobic remarks online. Just weeks later, campaign representatives referred to Graham as "Lady G," a reference to an unsubstantiated claim that the Republican has solicited male prostitutes.

In the campaign's closing days, Harrison and liberal activist groups spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads and mailers boosting Constitution Party nominee Bill Bledsoe in an attempt to funnel votes away from Graham. The effort proved unsuccessful. The third-party candidate had received just 1 percent of the vote when the race was called.