S.C.’s first Senate debate highlights differences between Graham and Harrison

Updated: Oct. 4, 2020 at 10:52 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Incumbent Republican Lindsey Graham and his challenger Democrat Jaime Harrison faced off in South Carolina’s first Senate debate on Saturday.

Before the debate started Harrison’s team requested addition safety measures be added in the wake of President Donald Trump and several of his close Republican allies testing positive for the coronavirus. Graham announced on twitter Friday, that he had tested negative for the virus, however Harrison opted to debate from behind a plexiglass wall dividing the two men.

From the outset, the debate took a respectful tone as each candidate laid out their vision for the future uninterrupted on key issues like health care.

Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Jaime Harrison said South Carolina is now one of 12 states that has still refused to expand Medicaid arguing the reason is not due to lack of funds. Harrison said the federal government was going to pay for 100% of the expansion for the first five years after which the state had to pick up 10%. Harrison argued the reason it was shot down was because the expansion was tied to former president Barack Obama.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said “Obamacare” was a disaster for South Carolina.

“It started with five choices, we are down to one,” Graham said. “Premiums have gone up 30%. You’re getting less coverage. Your copayments are going up if you’re working so somebody else can get it free.”

Both candidates denounced the Green New Deal with Graham arguing for a private solution and Harrison arguing for a stronger response from the government.

“I oppose the Green New Deal because it’s crazy. If you’re trying to eliminate all carbon fuels by 2035, it’s multiple trillions of dollars,” Graham said. “You’re going to do away with cars, you’re going to do away with cows. In the name of saving the environment, you’re going to destroy the economy. Climate change is real. I do believe in private sector solutions. I believe in the government working with the private sector.”

Harrison says he does not support the Green New Deal, but would like to see government step up and take action. He accuses Graham of not keeping his word on issues like the Supreme Court nominations.

“Your promise was that no judicial nominee should be considered or approved or what have you in the last year of an election,” Harrison said. “My grandfather always told me a man is only as good as his word. Well, senator, how good is your word when you made a promise to the American people and the people of South Carolina that you won’t be doing what you are doing right now. . . Be a man.”

Harrison is talking about Graham’s plan, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to push through the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett ahead of the election – a process that normally takes months.

One of the vibrant exchanges came when the candidates were asked to defend the attack adds both sides are running.

“I haven’t gone negative,” Harrison said. “I have just been informing people about Sen. Graham’s record.”

“Let’s talk about money and politics.” Graham said. “Where the hell is all this money coming from? What is it about South Carolina that has attracted almost $100 million into Jaime Harrison? Mr. Harrison’s coffers? They hate me. This is not about Mr. Harrison. This is about liberals hating my guts.”

Live 5′s Bill Sharpe was one of the panelists during Saturday’s debate and he shared his impressions on what voters may take away from the candidates' performances.

“Two points stood out to me,” Bill Sharpe said. “Senator Lindsey Graham tried to paint Jaime Harrison as a liberal. A friend of Nancy Pelosi. Too liberal for the state of South Carolina. Jaime Harrison on the other hand said to Senator Graham, ‘Senator where I grew up your word was your bond. You have broken your word specifically on the supreme court and when you were permitting the nomination Amy Berrett to be perhaps the next justice of the supreme court.’ So that’s what stood out to me.”

The next debate is set for Friday, Oct. 9.

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