COLUMBIA, SC – In their first debate in a race that broke fundraising records and became one of the most-watched Senate competitions of this cycle, US Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison drew multiple disputes between their campaigns, but also presented themselves as willing to work through the corridor to achieve legislative progress.
In his pursuit of a fourth term, Graham – chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee – also supported the case for his main congressional goal at the time: the confirmation of President Donald Trump̵
After Harrison – an associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former lobbyist – said Saturday night that he and his wife were still paying off their student loans, Graham snapped back, given what he saw of Harrison’s income from the statements of the income issued, “Are you a multimillionaire and can’t pay off your student loans?”
Harrison described himself as willing to work with Republicans on a variety of issues, describing when, as state Democratic president, he became close friends with his GOP counterpart. He also criticized the longtime legislator’s previous support of 12-year limits and added, “I believe the upper limit of the term is in the power of the people here in South Carolina.”
In response, Graham promoted himself as a Conservative who isn’t afraid to work with the Democrats, mentioning issues like immigration and telling voters, “You can limit my term to November 3 if you wish.”
Since his opening statement and in nearly every response to the one-hour debate, Graham has worked in his support for a conservative judiciary and in particular Amy Coney Barrett, who he called a “buffer to liberalism” that he hoped “will not be treated. like Kavanaugh “in his upcoming confirmation hearings.
It was Graham’s fiery 2018 defense of Brett Kavanaugh that helped cement his now close relationship with Trump, as well as renewed support with some who didn’t see Graham as conservative enough to represent South Carolina. moment, Graham said Saturday, even the irritated liberals he now says are pouring $ 100 million into Harrison’s campaign and the groups that support him, to try to oust Graham.
“Where the hell did all this money come from?” Graham asked. “These are liberals who hate my instincts when I defended Kavanaugh. It’s about me helping President Trump. “
Harrison, 44, criticized Graham, 65, for what he called contradictory positions on whether to fill vacant Supreme Court posts in a presidential election year.
“Senator, you said ‘use my words against me,'” Harrison said, referring to Graham’s 2018 comments on the subject. “Your promise was that no judicial candidates would be approved in the final year of the election. … How good is your word? “
Graham, repeatedly indicating his support for two of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court candidates, said Barrett “will be confirmed because the president has the constitutional authority to do so.”
The ongoing pandemic also played a role, both on stage and in the structuring of the debate. No members of the public were allowed to attend the event at Allen University, a historically black institution in Columbia. Inside media and campaign staff were distributed and required to complete questionnaires stating no exposure or symptoms of coronavirus.
After several senators announced they tested positive for COVID-19, Republican leaders on Saturday announced a refrain from legislative work until October 19 that the leadership says it will not derail Barrett’s hearings, which will begin on October 12. With two committee members recently contracting the coronavirus, Graham said on Friday that senators could virtually attend.
The candidates spoke from podiums 13 feet away. Harrison’s podium was shielded on the side closest to Graham by a plexiglass partition, something the campaign said was used in accordance with federal recommendations that anyone in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19 should put in quarantine for 14 days.
Both candidates say they tested negative on Friday, but Graham recently met with other Senate Republicans – many of whom tested positive for coronavirus – and Trump, currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
“You have nothing to fear when it comes to me,” Graham told Harrison, in his opening statement, a reference to plexiglass.
Of his split, Harrison said he was taking every precaution to keep himself and his loved ones safe.
“It’s not just about me, it’s about the people in my life that I have to take care of, my two children, my wife, my grandmother,” said Harrison.
Asked later about the number of public officials who have recently hired COVID, Graham reiterated his commitment to keep the economy and the government working amid the pandemic and noting, “The virus is a problem that has come from China. not from Trump Tower. “
Harrison’s campaign officials said he raised $ 340,000 during the debate and the hour that followed. Graham’s campaign said they “don’t discuss those numbers”. The two men are expected to discuss next October 9th.