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Former South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison has been tapped by President-elect Joe Biden to serve as the next chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), two party sources confirm to Fox News.
Harrison, who is a current DNC associate chair and senior counselor, grabbed national attention last year as he demolished Senate fundraising records in his unsuccessful bid to oust longtime Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a strong ally of President Trump.
The 44-year-old Harrison, who made history as his state’s first Black Democratic Party chair, once served as an aide to powerful Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the third ranking Democrat in the chamber.
Jaime Harrison speaks during the South Carolina U.S. Senate debate with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at Allen University in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. (Joshua Boucher/The State via AP)
Clyburn – a top Biden surrogate during the 2020 campaign who was instrumental in Biden’s landslide victory in the South Carolina primary, which revived the former vice president’s campaign and launched him toward the Democratic nomination and eventually the White House – lobbied the president-elect to pick Harrison as DNC chair.
Biden’s naming of Harrison is a clear sign of Clyburn’s influence with the incoming president.
Former DNC chair Donna Brazile, a Fox News contributor, said Harrison was a logical choice to lead the national committee. "He knows the DNC and he knows the party structure," Brazile noted. "He had good ties to the White House."
Brazile added that Harrison is "a familiar face inside the Democratic Party and he’s someone familiar with Capitol Hill as a former congressional staffer."
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."
Harrison, as well as Buckley and then-South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, among others, ran for DNC chair four years ago in a contest ultimately won by Tom Perez, who had served as assistant attorney general for civil rights and secretary of labor in President Barack Obama’s administration.
Perez said last year that he would not bid to serve 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.
Harrison will be formally elected next Thursday, Jan. 21, when the DNC holds its Winter Meeting. The annual gathering will be held virtually this time amid the coronavirus pandemic. The election will come one day after Biden is inaugurated as president. And while DNC committee members will vote for the chair, the real decision-maker in the process was Biden, who is now the leader of the Democratic Party.
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. And he’ll be tasked with the difficult job of keeping the peace between the Democratic Party’s progressive and moderate wings.
The New York Times was first to report Biden’s tapping of Harrison as DNC chair.
Biden and his campaign 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. That’s a hopeful sign going forward.
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.
Biden is hoping to avoid the fate of both Obama in 2010 and Trump in 2018, as they both suffered serious setbacks in their first midterm elections of their presidencies.
Chair of the Republican National Committee Ronna McDaniel stands on stage in an empty Mellon Auditorium while addressing the Republican National Convention at the Mellon Auditorium on Aug. 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)