A former top South Carolina business executive and supporter of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has decided to back the Republican incumbent’s Democratic challenger in his 2020 re-election race.

Richard Wilkerson, the former chairman and president of Michelin’s Greenville-based North America operations, said he chose to endorse Democrat Jaime Harrison because of his experience working with him while Harrison lobbied on the company’s behalf in Washington, D.C.

From 2009 to 2016, when Harrison was a lobbyist at the now-defunct Podesta Group, he advocated for some of Michelin’s legislative priorities, including dredging the Port of Charleston and creating new tire manufacturing standards to improve fuel efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Wilkerson said the experience showed him “how hard he (Harrison) works to bring lasting economic opportunity to the people of South Carolina” and described him as “the change South Carolina needs.”

Michelin is one of South Carolina’s largest companies, employing almost 10,000 people in the state.

Wilkerson was a member of Graham’s Presidential campaign finance team and had been donating to his Senate campaign since 2011. Harrison’s campaign continues to pick up speed and bring in the money:

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Democratic opponent in this fall’s U.S. Senate election in South Carolina has enlisted a crew of heavy-hitting bundlers to raise large amounts of cash.

Jaime Harrison, the former chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, has the backing of several big-dollar fundraisers as he seeks to unseat the powerful Republican lawmaker and ally of President Donald Trump, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. These people declined to be named as the decisions have yet to be made public by the campaign.

According to the people, Harrison’s list of bundlers includes Jon Henes, a senior partner at legal juggernaut Kirkland & Ellis; Brian Mathis, a founding partner at investment firm Pine Street; Mike Kempner, the CEO of public relations juggernaut MWWPR; Melissa Prober, a senior associate counsel at the New York Genome Project; Sarah Min, a digital media consultant, and Jonathan Klein, a partner at DLA Piper.

Bundlers often help arrange fundraising events and reach out to prospective donors to encourage them to give to the campaigns they’re supporting.  

The development comes as Harrison’s campaign reported outraising Graham in the first quarter of 2020, $7.3 million to $5.5 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Graham, however, has slightly more cash on hand, with $12 million compared with Harrison’s $8 million.

U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D. CA) & Cory Booker (D. NJ) and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D. SC) have also been the top big Democratic names to raise money for Harrison. And Democracy for America is helping keep up the momentum for Harrison’s campaign. Received this e-mail today from DFA:

While Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has spent the last few weeks arguing that Congress needs to reduce unemployment benefits for people affected by the coronavirus pandemic, his DFA-endorsed Democratic challenger has been getting to work.

And it shows. Jaime Harrison’s campaign just announced they outraised Lindsey Graham again in the first quarter of 2020.

With grassroots power from people like you, a progressive Democrat like Jaime can unseat a long-time Republican incumbent like Graham, who’s been too busy acting as Trump’s lapdog to meet with or fight for the people of South Carolina.

But Trump and McConnell’s network of dark money donors are going to spend whatever it takes to keep Lindsey Graham in the Senate doing their bidding. That’s why we can’t take our foot off the gas right now.

We need to ensure Jaime’s team has what it takes to cut through the onslaught of TV ads by Republican SuperPACs, mobilize people across South Carolina, and get out the vote to finally defeat Lindsey Graham.

If you’re ready to send Lindsey Graham packing and elect a strong progressive like Jaime Harrison to take his place, split a contribution between DFA and Jaime’s campaign today.

Thanks for helping us support progressive candidates like Jaime. Together, we can send one of Trump’s closest allies home for good and end Mitch McConnell’s Senate majority.

— Yvette

Yvette Simpson, CEO
Democracy for America

Click here to donate to Harrison’s campaign.

  • April 28, 2020