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Background and Experience
Born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Jamie Harrison is South Carolina’s current Democratic Party Chairman. Harrison grew up in poverty and was the first in his family to receive a college degree. Harrison took on $160,000 of debt to earn a bachelor’s degree from Yale and his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center. He taught world geography at his high school in Orangeburg before heading to Washington DC.
In Washington, Harrison worked on the staff of U.S. Representative Jim Clyburn (SC) and advanced to be his director of floor operations and counsel when Clyburn was the House Majority Whip. Harrison became the Executive Director for the House Democratic Caucus at the age of 30. He has also worked as a lobbyist for the Podesta Group, a bipartisan team of global public affairs specialists.
Harrison endorses the “50-State Strategy,” which was successfully employed by the Democrats in 2005-06 when Howard Dean ran the DNC. It is a grassroots movement that attempts to build up the party’s base in every precinct, city, and state. As part of that strategy, Harrison wants the DNC to provide more resources to the state parties. “We should not be so much of a DC party,” he said. “The state parties are the engine we need to get over the hill and we don’t have that.”
Harrison wants to build the Democratic base at all levels: local government, state government, and federal government. In a recent NPR interview Harrison said, “The people who are elected on local levels have just as much impact, if not more, on the day-to-day lives of citizens. And so we can’t just be focused on the White House. If we do what we have to do on a state level, then the White House is gravy. And that’s the focus.”
Harrison launched the Clyburn Political Fellowship program in South Carolina, which focuses on training the next generation of Democratic leaders to run for office, manage campaigns, and become active in local and county politics.
Harrison does not identify as one sort of Democrat or another. He is simply a Democrat. “We lose when we think ‘you’re a Bernie Democrat, you’re a Hillary Democrat, this person is an Obama Democrat,” Harrison said. “The only thing I’ve ever known is being a Democrat. Those sorts of divisions, having to choose one or the other, a litmus test for determining who is a true Democrat – we need to leave that to the Republican Party. That’s not the big tent Democratic Party that I grew up in.”
Pros and Cons
While growing up, Harrison’s family received aid in the form of food stamps. Harrison is able to speak to those of lower socioeconomic status with sincerity and truthfulness. He could work on strategies to bring more working class and poor voters into the Democratic Party.
However, Harrison’s work at the Podesta Group could be seen as a drawback. He might be viewed as yet another “lobbyist turned politician.” Additionally, his work at the Podesta Group could be seen as having ties to the Clintons. John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, was one of the founders of the group, although he has not been active with the Group since the 1990s. Harrison claims that he has never worked with John Podesta.
While Harrison is relatively unknown in the name game, that is not necessarily a drawback. Many in the party are hungry for change and a new name could bring that about. But given the fact that he is the current party chair in South Carolina and the Democrats lost pretty big this year, one might question his leadership of that branch of the party. At the same time, one could also ask if the losses were the fault of local leadership or national leadership.
Harrison could be a unifier in a time of great divisiveness. He reaches across the aisle to get things done and even has a close friendship with Republican, Matt Moore, Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party. Harrison also has youth appeal since he would be the youngest head of the DNC at age 40.
Harrison has been endorsed by several members of Congress and the DNC including Reps. Sanford Bishop (GA), Jim Clyburn (SC), Marcia Fudge (OH), John Larson (CT), Bennie Thompson (MS), former Reps. John Spratt (SC) and John Barrow (GA), former Del. Donna Christensen, and DNC Members Donald Fowler, Kaye Lingle Koonce, Carol Fowler, and Clay Middleton.
For more information, check out our sources at:
- Official Site: “Jamie Harrison for DNC Chair” at http://jaimefordncchair.com/
(Image credit: Precision New Media)
Author Sian Harris is not a writer by trade but has a love of the written word. She works in the IT industry and has experience in technical writing. She has a passion for women’s rights, economic and social justice.