Democrat Jaime Harrison enlisted the help of Grammy Award-winning rapper Common at a Monday rally in Columbia, S.C., as polls continue to show a closer race between Harrison and Sen. Lindsey Graham than many had expected.
“Common shares many of the same values that were instilled in me as a South Carolinian: hard work, integrity and caring for one another,” Harrison told Yahoo News. “I’m honored to have his support in our mission to restore hope to South Carolinians statewide.”
Common spent most the day traveling around the city of Columbia with Harrison, speaking with voters. That evening, Common performed some of his biggest hits at a drive-in rally at Benedict College.
“I know what Jaime is to the people of South Carolina and what he represents in government,” Common told Yahoo News in a phone interview ahead of the concert. “He can make true change in state government for South Carolina at the Senate and federal level. We need to have more people in the House that represent equality for us as a people and as a Black man.”
During Monday evening’s event at Benedict College, Harrison decided not to mention Graham’s vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett despite the senator’s pledges not to cast a vote in favor of a new Supreme Court justice in the final year of a president’s term. Instead, Harrison focused on the local issues he hopes to address if elected.
“Too many communities in South Carolina lack hope and opportunity,” he said. “[In] too many communities folks don’t have health insurance. [In] too many communities people don’t have broadband. How do we expect our children to compete with the rest of the world when they can’t even connect with the rest of the world?”
Earlier on Monday, the Harrison campaign announced it had received an official endorsement from the State, South Carolina’s oldest newspaper, whose circulation is the second highest in the state behind the Post and Courier, which endorsed Graham.
“We started as a 17-point underdog,” Harrison tweeted Monday morning. “Today, I'm honored to accept the endorsement of the oldest newspaper in South Carolina, @thestate. Change is coming, folks.”
Polling in the race has been inconsistent. A survey released Monday by Standard Communications showed Graham with a 9-point lead over Harrison, but a Morning Consult poll released last week gave Harrison a 2-point advantage. Meanwhile, the Economist's election forecast, last updated on Sunday, predicted Graham would earn support from 51 percent of voters and Harrison from 49 percent.
“We are seeing the emergence of what I call a ‘new South,’” Harrison, a former lobbyist, told Yahoo News last month in an interview. “[It’s] a new South, which is bold, inclusive and diverse. You’re seeing African Americans being able to run statewide for the nominations and win and be on the cusp of changing the history and direction of this country.”
Common said he believes that the people of South Carolina can recognize when change is needed — and recent fundraising totals are evidence of this.
Bolstered by Democrats across the country eager to see Graham go down in defeat, the Harrison campaign announced earlier this month that it had raked in $57 million in donations in the third quarter of the year, the most ever raised by a Senate candidate in a quarterly fundraising period in U.S. history.
“People are looking for greater leadership [in this state],” Common said. “And leadership thinks about everyone who exists in this community, not just white folks who have been privileged and not just Black folk.”
Common, who is not registered as a Democrat, said he learned about Harrison by doing his own research.
“I think people are looking for direction, and that just can’t come from a political agenda,” Common said. “That comes from people trying to better the world. … We need those type of leaders no matter their political party. I’m not from a political party, but I’m from the people’s party. If I see someone speaking to something I respect, and I see them coming with things from their own ideologies in things that they’re working for through policy structure, [that’s what I respect]. I encourage everyone voting to look at all the candidates and look at a YouTube video or two. I find out about candidates through word of mouth and then educate myself.”
Common also said that Black celebrities have an important role to play in the election.
“It’s definitely any celebrity’s responsibility to speak to the times and be authentic to themselves and take into consideration what is the plight of the people,” he said. “Every celebrity deserves their voice to be heard, but Black celebrities have [an even greater] responsibility because our structure and political power has never been at equal power to provide the information. … We have to be more diligent with the information and be clear and speak to people in their language. Respect to Diddy and Ice Cube, but we have to make sure we stay in tune with politics after this year, going into the midterms and more. It’s got to be an all-the-time thing.”
The biggest message Common has for voters in South Carolina and all over the country is the acknowledgment that every vote matters.
“Look at what happened in Minnesota and Louisville,” he explained. “George Floyd was killed by police. The officials [in charge] were elected, from mayor to governor to attorney general. What they did was charge the police, and they are set to go on trial. In Louisville, look what happened to the attorney general. [Daniel Cameron] made sure the police weren’t charged. That is a reason to vote.”
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images, Micah Green/Bloomberg via Getty Images (2)
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