- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Jaime Harrison says the experience he has gained as head of the South Carolina Democratic Party and a Capitol Hill insider before that has provided him with a unique perspective on how to get the national party back to winning after a challenging election cycle.

Mr. Harrison said the skills he has developed could give him an edge in the race against Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and New Hampshire Chairman Raymond Buckley to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez is expected to enter the race as early as Thursday.

“I am the only one in the race that has the understanding of how D.C. operates and the leaders there, but at the same time I have been operative on the front lines trying to rebuild a party in a red state,” Mr. Harrison told The Washington Times this week.

Before becoming the state’s first black Democratic Party chairman in 2013, Mr. Harrison worked for Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking Democrat in the House, and as a lobbyist at the Podesta Group, which was co-founded by John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign.

As chairman, Mr. Harrison said, he has sought to strengthen ties between local communities and South Carolina Democrats and to develop a generation of Democratic leaders through a fellowship program — named after Mr. Clyburn — that trains newcomers to operate campaigns or run for office.

“It is going to be a fundamental game-changer going forward here in South Carolina because we have a ton of young people [involved] who were not on our radar,” he said. “I think if we replicated it all across the country, it would be tremendous in terms of building up our bench in many parts of these states.”

Mr. Ellison, meanwhile, got a boost Wednesday when New York Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged his support, adding to his list of powerful political allies — including the AFL-CIO and incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York.

Liberals including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernard Sanders of Vermont appeared at a forum Wednesday to support Mr. Ellison.

Still, Mr. Ellison’s campaign has had some stumbles, fueling calls for Mr. Perez to run and opening the door for DNC members to take a good look at Mr. Buckley and Mr. Harrison.

Mr. Clyburn told his colleagues that Mr. Harrison “has the experience, vision, and commitment to rebuild our party and to return us to victory on national, state and local levels.”

Mr. Harrison told The Times that his path to victory depends in large part on winning the support of DNC members from states that helped power Donald Trump to victory last month.

“We are going to pull a coalition from the Southern states and some flyover states,” he said, adding that he hopes to complement that backing with support from his friends from coastal states.

Mr. Harrison said part of his plan is to invest more in state parties in red states. He said the $7,500 doled out annually is not enough.

“In a ruby-red state, say you take an Oklahoma or an Idaho, where Republicans control everything, it is very hard for them to raise the resources they need in order to compete,” he said.

He said a stronger partnership between the DNC and state parties could have changed election outcomes in states such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, which backed Mr. Trump.

“If we had more investment in those state parties over the past four years, that could have made the difference in terms of the get-out-the-vote efforts,” he said.

Mr. Harrison has a bachelor’s degree from Yale and law degree from Georgetown University.

The head of the DNC has been in flux since July when Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida resigned after hacked emails showed favoritism for Hillary Clinton over Mr. Sanders in the presidential primary race. Donna Brazile has since served as interim chairwoman.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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