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Former South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison on Thursday was formally elected by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as the party’s new chairman.
Harrison and a new slate of DNC vice chairs that includes Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Rep Filemon Vela Jr. of Texas, were overwhelming elected 407-4 during the DNC’s Winter Meeting, which was held virtually this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The official vote by Democratic national party committee members came a day after the inauguration of President Joe Biden. The vote was a mere formality, coming a week after Biden – who since his presidential election victory in November is the leader of the Democratic Party – named Harrison as his choice to serve as DNC chair the next four years, succeeding outgoing chair Tom Perez.
Harrison, who is a current DNC associate chair and senior counselor, grabbed national attention last year as he demolished U.S. Senate fundraising records in his unsuccessful bid to oust longtime GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
The 44-year-old Harrison, who made history as his state’s first Black Democratic Party chair, once served as a congressional aide to powerful Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat.
Clyburn was a top Biden surrogate during the 2020 campaign and lobbied the president-elect to pick Harrison as DNC chair. Clyburn was instrumental in Biden’s landslide victory in the South Carolina primary. That win revived the former vice president’s campaign and launched him toward the Democratic nomination and eventually the White House. Biden’s naming of Harrison is a clear sign of Clyburn’s influence with the new president.
Harrison, in his acceptance speech, emphasized that he’s “committing to a 50 state and seven territory strategy that takes no voter and no community for granted. We are done looking at the map, ignoring the red while we focus on a few purple areas. We are done with just focusing on our cities while forgetting those living on dirt roads.”
And he stressed that “the Democratic Party can’t just be a political organization, we have to be a community organization, addressing the needs of people across this country.”
Harrison’s naming as DNC chair by Biden was well received by national and state party officials.
Former DNC chair Donna Brazile, a Fox News contributor, said last week that Harrison was a logical choice to lead the national committee. “He knows the DNC and he knows the party structure.. he’s a familiar face inside the party,” Brazile noted. “And he had good ties to the White House.”
Longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley told Fox News last month that “Jaime really fits the bill. You’re not hearing a lot of pushback on the idea of Jaime because he’s so well known. He did a fantastic job as state chair and has done a great job as an associate chair of the DNC the last four years.”
Buckley, who for years served as president of the Association of State Democratic Chairs, highlighted that Harrison “certainly understands and appreciates the value of a strong state party. His commitment to building the party from the grassroots up is sincere. He’s been there and that’s something that’s important to a lot of us, that someone with state and local experience the national party.”
After President Barack Obama’s 2008 White House victory, the DNC was often treated like a backwater organization as Obama set up Organizing for America, a separate political group with competing duties.
But Biden and his campaign team worked exceedingly close with the DNC during the 2020 election, with staffers from both organizations coordinating on grassroots outreach and get out the vote efforts,, and on messaging.
In a video Thursday that was played at the DNC Winter Meeting, the president emphasized the importance of working with the state Democratic organizations.
“I know that working together with state parties we can truly unite the country. I know we can,” Biden said.
Harrison, as well as Buckley and then-South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, among others, ran for DNC chair four years ago in a wide open contest ultimately won by Perez, who had served as assistant attorney general for civil rights and Labor secretary in the Obama administration.
Perez said last year that he would not bid to serve another term as party chair. He’s credited with reviving the DNC after President Trump’s 2016 victory, helping the Democrats recapture the House in 2018, keeping the peace between party factions, and leaving the DNC in good financial shape.
On Thursday, in his last minutes as DNC chair, Perez pointed to Harris and the new leadership team and said that “we’re replacing one A team with another A team.”
One of Harrison’s jobs going forward as DNC chair will be fundraising. Harrison raised over $130 million last year in his Senate bid, with his $57 million third-quarter fundraising haul shattering the previous single-quarter Senate race record. Harrison ended up losing the election to Graham by 10 points.
Harrison will also be charged with leading the national party through the 2022 midterms, as Democrats will try to hold onto their fragile House majority and expand their razor-thin majority in the Senate. He’ll also be tasked with the difficult job of keeping the peace between the Democratic Party’s progressive and moderate wings.
Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Ronna McDaniel two weeks ago was unanimously re-elected to a third two-year term steering the RNC.
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