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Democrat Jaime Harrison launches campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham

Former state Democratic Party chair hits Graham for his about-face on Donald Trump

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Former South Carolina Democratic chair Jaime Harrison has entered the state’s 2020 U.S. Senate race with a pledge to bring “the spirit of helping” back to politics — and withering criticism of incumbent Lindsey Graham for his about-face embrace of Donald Trump.

Jaime Harrison (From MSNBC)

Harrison, 43, a Columbia lawyer who serves as associate chair of the Democratic National Committee, unveiled his bid May 28 on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” where he called Graham “a political windsock” who over the last two years has gone from Trump critic to Trump booster.

“I used to think that this was a guy who was a statesman, a guy who could stand above the fray and help solve the issues,” Harrison said. “He’s a chameleon who has changed his colors.”

Although South Carolina hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1998, Harrison said he believes the party “is on the verge of a renaissance in the South,” pointing to recent gubernatorial races in Georgia and Florida, in which African American Democrats narrowly lost, and the party’s pickup of a U.S. House seat in the Palmetto State in 2018.

Harrison, a former aide to House Minority Whip Jim Clyburn, was the first African American elected to chair the state party in 2013. After four years in that role, he ran unsuccessfully for national DNC chair and was appointed as an associate chairman after Tom Perez won the position.

In an announcement video posted to his campaign website, Harrison contrasts Graham’s assessment of Trump during the 2016 campaign as a “kook,” “crazy” and a “race baiting, xenophobic religious bigot” with later comments that Graham is “all in” with Trump and the president “deserves the Nobel Peace Prize and then some.”

In the video, Harrison calls Graham “a guy who will say anything to stay in office.”

“Lindsey Graham can’t lead us in any direction because he has traded his moral compass for petty political gain,” Harrison said.

The Graham campaign didn’t immediately fire back. But the state GOP chair, Drew McKissick accused Democrats in a statement of “attacking Senator Graham for standing up for conservative values and refusing to give in to the liberal smear campaign against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.”

He said Harrison and the other Democrat in the race, Gloria Tinubu, “hope to extract revenge by rallying liberals across America to their cause, but they are going to learn the hard way that South Carolinians appreciate the leadership that Lindsey Graham has brought to the issues they care about.”

Tinubu, an economics professor and former state legislator in Georgia, announced her candidacy in April.

Graham, 63, is seeking a fourth term in 2020. He has posted double-digit wins in all three of his previous campaigns.

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U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham launches re-election bid with full-throated embrace of Donald Trump

Vice President Mike Pence travels to South Carolina for 2020 campaign kickoff

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

GREENVILLE, South Carolina (CFP) — U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham has become one of President Donald Trump’s most vigorous and unlikely defenders in the Senate. And now, he’s reaping the rewards.

Graham officially launched his 2020 re-election bid on March 30 with Vice President Mike Pence by his side at stops in Myrtle Beach and Greenville. And Pence brought greetings from the commander-in-chief.

“South Carolina and America need Lindsey Graham in the United States Senate, and I’m not the only one who thinks that where I work,” Pence told a rally in Greenville. “We’re standing next to this man because of the way he stood next to us.”

Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham campaign in Greenville (From WSPA via YouTube)

Graham also put his relationship with Trump front-and-center in his re-election campaign.

“Purpose No. 1 is to help President Trump in his second term, to be an ally of this president who has kept his word, who is making America great again and will continue to do so,” Graham said. “I want to help him because I believe in what he’s doing.”

It was not always thus. During the 2016 campaign, when he was running against Trump for president, Graham called him a “kook” who was “unfit for office.” In the general election, he voted for third-party candidate Evan McMullin, rather than embracing his party’s nominee — and openly admitted his apostasy to the press.

Graham had long been a champion of comprehensive immigration reform, the polar opposite of Trump’s stance on immigration policy. And his closest friend in the Senate was the late John McCain, Trump’s most persistent Senate critic.

But over the last year, Graham and Trump have warmed to each other, frequently playing golf together, and his previous criticism has been replaced with praise. And he has sided with the president in some very visible fights, most notably his defense of Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who faced allegations of sexual misconduct.

“I’ve come to find common ground with him,” Graham said of Trump in Greenville. “I like him, and he likes him, and that seems to be working for both of us.”

“Every day with President Trump is like Christmas. You don’t know what’s under the tree, but you know there’s something under it,” Graham said. “Some days it’s a good shotgun you’ve been wanting, and other days it’s a sweater. But it all works.”

Graham, 63, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is seeking his fourth term in the Senate in 2020. In his last two campaigns in 2008 and 2014, he faced primary challenges from opponents on the right who criticized him for being insufficiently conservative, particularly on the immigration issue.

Graham won both of those primaries, but in 2014 was held to 56 percent of the vote, not the strongest of showings for an incumbent senator.

If Graham needed a lesson in the perils of getting sideways with the president’s followers, it came last summer when then-U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, a Trump critic who represented the Lowcountry in Congress, was bounced in a Republican primary in which the president endorsed his opponent.

Having Trump on side in 2020 will make it much more difficult for successful challenge to Graham from within the party.

Graham has already drawn three Republican challengers, but none of them are well known and are unlikely to be a threat.

In his three previous Senate elections, Graham won the general election easily in a state where Republicans are dominant. But he could face a Democratic challenge in 2020 from Jamie Harrison, a Columbia attorney and former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, who has formed an exploratory committee for the 2020 race.

Democrats haven’t won a Senate race in the Palmetto State since 1998.

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Video: Henry McMaster sworn in to a full term as South Carolina governor

Republican is the 117th person to serve as governor of Palmetto State

Video from WLTX-TV via YouTube

7 new Southern U.S House Democrats who ousted Republicans support Nancy Pelosi for speaker

Cunningham of South Carolina and Spanberger of Virginia keep vow to oppose Pelosi; North Carolina’s 9th District remains vacant

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Seven Southern Democratic U.S. House freshmen who ousted GOP incumbents in November supported Nancy Pelosi’s bid to reclaim the gavel as speaker of the U.S. House — handing Republicans an issue to use against them in 2020.

Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi accepts gavel from GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (From Twitter)

Colin Allred and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher of Texas, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Lucy McBath of Georgia, Elaine Luria and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida all supported Pelosi in the January 3 vote.

Two other freshmen Democrats who had vowed during their campaign that they would not support Pelosi — Joe Cunningham of South Carolina and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia — kept that promise, voting instead for Cheri Bustos of Illinois.

And despite signing a letter in November calling for new leadership in the House, Filemon Vela of Texas switched course to vote for Pelosi.

Meanwhile, as the new Congress convened in Washington with 29 new Southern  members, one seat sat empty — the representative from North Carolina’s 9th District, where state elections officials have refused to certify Republican Mark Harris’s narrow win over Democrat Dan McCready amid allegations of absentee ballot fraud.

In the vote for speaker, just three Southern Democratic members did not support Pelosi — Cunningham and Spanberger, who voted for Bustos, and Jim Cooper of Tennessee, who voted present.

Cooper, who has been in Congress since 1983, had been a long-time opponent of Pelosi’s speakership, having voted against her five times previously.

After the November election, a group of 16 Democratic members, including Cooper, Cunningham and Vela, signed a letter calling for “new leadership” in the Democratic caucus.

Vela changed course after Pelosi agreed to support term limits for the House Democratic leadership, which will limit her speakership to no more than four years.

Pelosi needed a majority of the 430 votes cast for speaker. In the end, she got 220 votes, four more than necessary.

Of the seven Southern Democrats who ousted Republicans and voted for Pelosi, McBath, Horn and Luria represent districts carried by President Donald Trump in 2016, while Allred and Fletcher represent districts he lost by less than 2 points.

Hillary Clinton carried Murcasel-Powell’s district in South Florida by 16 points and Wexton’s district in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. by 10 points.

Three other Southern Democratic newcomers who won open seats in November also supported Pelosi — Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia of Texas, and Donna Shalala of Florida. All three represent districts Clinton carried handily.

Among Southern Republicans, only three did not support their candidate for speaker, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Jody Hice of Georgia supported Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of the founders of the House Freedom Caucus, a grouping of the most conservative Republican members.

Walter Jones of North Carolina did not vote. He has been absent from Congress since September because of an undisclosed illness.

Of the 29 new Southern members of the House, 17 are Republicans and 12 are Democrats. Republicans hold 101 Southern seats, compared to 50 for Democrats, with North Carolina’s 9th District vacant.

The 9th District seat is likely to remain vacant until after the state elections board completes its investigation into the allegations of absentee ballot irregularities, which has been delayed until February because of a new law revamping the board.

Harris has filed a lawsuit seeking for force certification of the election.

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Change in party control of U.S. House diminishes Southern clout

Just five House committees in new Congress will have Southerners at the helm

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — When it comes to Southern clout in the U.S. House, what a difference an election makes.

In the recently departed Congress, with Republicans in control, 13 of the 22 committee chairs hailed from the 14 Southern states; in the newly installed Congress, with Democrats in charge, that number will fall to just five.

Five Southern Republican chairs retired, and one, Pete Sessions of Texas, went down to defeat in November. Those who stayed find themselves in the minority for the first time in eight years.

The switch in control has shifted power from the GOP, in which Southerners made up nearly half of the caucus, to the Democrats, where Southerners only make up a fifth. And that has led to reduced numbers of Southerners among committee chairs.

All five of the committees that will be chaired by Southern Democrats in the new Congress were chaired by Southern Republicans in the last Congress, so there will be no loss of influence on those panels.

Also, the outgoing majority whip, Republican Steve Scalise of Louisiana, will be replaced by the incoming majority whip, Democrat Jim Clyburn of South Carolina. Both men remain the only Southern members in their party’s top leadership.

But eight other committees that had GOP chairmen will now be headed by lawmakers from outside the region. And that list contains a number of the most powerful and high-profile chairmanships in Washington, including Judiciary, Rules, Ways and Means, and Oversight and Reform.

The five Southern Democratic committee chairmen are John Yarmuth of Kentucky, Budget; Ted Deutch of Florida, Ethics; Bobby Scott of Virginia, Education and Labor; Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Homeland Security; and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, Science, Space and Technology.

Unlike Republicans, who select committee chairs by voting within the caucus, Democrats use seniority. All five of the Southern Democrats ascending to chairmanships had been the ranking Democratic member when Democrats were in the minority.

Scott, Thompson and Johnson, all members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are among eight new chairs who are African American or Latino. In the departing Republican Congress, all of the chairs were white, and 20 were men.

Southerners will make up a slight majority within the Republican caucus in the new Congress, which is reflected in the GOP’s new committee leadership. On 14 of the 22 House committees, the ranking Republican in the new Congress will be from the South.

Among the notable newcomers to that group are Kay Granger of Texas, who will be ranking member on Appropriations, and Doug Collins of Georgia, on Judiciary–the committee that would handle any impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

Michael McCaul of Texas, who had been chairman of Homeland Security, has shifted to become the new ranking member of Foreign Affairs.

Six Southern Republicans who had been chairs of their committees will continue as ranking members in the new Congress–Mike Conaway of Texas, Agriculture; Mac Thornberry of Texas, Armed Services; Steve Womack of Arkansas, Budget; Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Education and Labor; Phil Roe of Tennessee, Veterans’ Affairs; and Kevin Brady of Texas, Ways and Means.

In addition to Granger and Collins, five other Southern Republicans were also newly named as ranking members–Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, Financial Services; Kenny Marchant of Texas, Ethics; Mike Rogers of Alabama, Homeland Security; Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Rules; and Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, Science, Space and Technology.

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Mick Mulvaney’s biting comments about Trump resurface after he’s named acting White House chief of staff

Former South Carolina congressman called Trump “a terrible human being” during 2016 debate

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Just hours after President Donald Trump took to Twitter to name Mick Mulvaney acting White House chief of staff, a national news outlet resurrected a video from a 2016 congressional debate in South Carolina in which Mulvaney calls Trump “a terrible human being.”

The Daily Beast posted a short clip from video taken during a debate in York shortly before the 2016 election.

Mick Mulvaney at 2016 congressional debate (Photo from Daily Beast)

“Yes, I am supporting Donald Trump. I’m doing so as enthusiastically as I can despite the fact that I think he’s a terrible human being. But the choice on the other side is just as bad,” Mulvaney said.

Mulvaney’s comments were reported at the time of the debate by The State newspaper in Columbia. In that story, Mulvaney also called Trump and his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, “perhaps two of the most flawed human beings running for president in the history of the country.”

The Daily Beast did not say where it obtained the video clip, which did not contain the rest of the debate.

Mulvaney’s comments in 2016 stand in contrast to his December 14  tweet after Trump installed him as chief of staff, albeit in an acting capacity.

“This is a tremendous honor,” he said. “I look forward to working with the President and the entire team. It’s going to be a great 2019!”

Neither the White House nor Trump have responded to the video. But a spokeswoman for Mulvaney called it “old news” and noted that Mulvaney had not yet met the president when he made those remarks.

Mulvaney, 51, represented South Carolina’s 5th District from 2011 until he was named by Trump as director of the Office of Management and Budget in 2017. The White House has said he will not give up the OMB job while serving temporarily as chief of staff.

Neither Trump nor the White House indicated how long Mulvaney might serve in the interim role.

Mulvaney will replace John Kelly, who Trump announced would be leaving the White House by the end of the year.

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U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley will leave her post at the end of 2018

Former South Carolina governor says she has no plans to seek the White House in 2020

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — In a move that caught Washington by surprise, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has announced that she will step down from her post at the end of the year.

The former South Carolina governor made the announcement at the White House October 9 sitting next to the man who appointed her, President Donald Trump, who told reporters that Haley has “done an incredible job.”

“Hopefully you’ll be coming back at some point … maybe a different capacity,” Trump said.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announces her departure with President Trump at the White House October 9 (Courtesy White House pool)

Haley, who had been a vocal critic of Trump during the 2016 campaign before signing on to serve in his Cabinet, made it clear that her departure has nothing to do with any future political plans.

“No, I’m not running for 2020,” she said. “I can promise you what I’ll be doing is campaigning for this one,” pointing to Trump.

Haley said that after six years as governor and two years in the U.N. post, she wanted to leave government service and return to private life, although she did not announce any specific plans.

“I think you have to be selfless enough to know when you step aside and allow someone else to do the job,” she said.

Haley also defended Trump’s approach to foreign policy, which has frequently been disquieting to some of America’s traditional allies.

“Now, the United States is respected,” she said. “Other countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do.”

Haley, 46, the daughter of Sikh immigrants from India, had no foreign policy experience when she was tapped for the U.N. post. She is the only woman in a senior-level Cabinet post and the last survivor of Trump’s original foreign policy team, which has featured two different secretaries of state and three national security advisers.

During the 2016 campaign, Haley supported two of Trump’s rivals after urging Americans to resist the temptation “to follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” in what was widely seen as a thinly veiled rebuke of Trump.

She never never explicitly endorsed Trump during the campaign, although she did tell reporters at the Republican National Convention in July that she intended to vote for her party’s nominee.

However, since her elevation to the Cabinet, she has defended the president, most recently by criticizing the author of an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times who described an internal resistance movement within the White House.

“I don’t agree with the president on everything. When there is disagreement, there is a right way and a wrong way to address it,” Haley said. “I pick up the phone and call him or meet with him in person.”

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