Jaime R. Harrison: The First African American Elected to Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party



Jaime R. Harrison is the current chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the South Carolina Democratic Party’s first African American chairman.

Harrison was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, on February 5, 1976. Rodney Stewart and Patricia (Harrison) Stewart are his parents. He is Willie and Jimmie Lou Harrison’s grandson. His teenage mother and grandparents raised him. Harrison, a first-generation college graduate, earned a B.A. in 1998. at Yale University in Political Science Harrison returned to Orangeburg, South Carolina, after graduation, and worked as a world geography teacher at his alma mater, Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, for a year before taking on the role of Chief Operations Officer for College Summit.

Harrison worked as a policy advisor to Congressman James Clyburn in 2003. Harrison received his Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 2004. Harrison returned to South Carolina in the summer of 2004 to serve as political director for the South Carolina Democratic Party’s Victory 2004 campaign on behalf of US Senate candidate Inez Tenenbaum. Harrison was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 2005. Harrison was the executive director of the Democratic Caucus in the United States House of Representatives in 2006.

The following year, he returned to Clyburn’s office as floor director, counsel, and senior political and legislative advisor. Harrison was a principal with the Podesta Group, a government relations and public affairs firm, in 2008. From 2013 to 2017, he was the chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party. Prior to becoming chair, he was the party’s first assistant chair.

Harrison took a leave of absence from the Podesta Group in November 2016 to launch his campaign for Democratic National Committee Chair. However, in February 2017, Harrison dropped out of the race and endorsed Tom Perez for the chairmanship. In April 2017, Harrison resigned as South Carolina state party chairperson to accept an appointment as the Democratic National Committee’s associate chair by Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez.

Harrison filed paperwork to run for the United States Senate in the 2020 election in 2019. Since 2006, no Democrat had won a statewide election in South Carolina. Harrison launched his campaign in 2019, and went on to win the Democratic nomination unopposed in 2020. Harrison then ran for the U.S. Senate seat in South Carolina against incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham. Harrison broke U.S. Senate campaign fundraising records by raising $109 million using a novel national Internet fundraising strategy, the most campaign funds ever raised by a U.S. Senate candidate. Nonetheless, he was defeated by Graham in the election.

Harrison lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with his wife Marie (Boyd), a law professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, and their two sons William and Charles.

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