SC's Graham, Harrison Clash at Debate 10/31 13:30
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- On the Friday night before Election Day, Republican
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison met in South
Carolina's capital city of Columbia for their second and final debate, clashing
over issues related to criminal justice reform, health care and political
sniping in a Senate matchup that has shattered fundraising records and
commanded national attention.
On criminal justice reform, Harrison called for more mental health
counseling needed for crisis situations and chided Graham, chairman of the
Senate Judiciary Committee, for not advancing Sen. Tim Scott's "Justice Act"
reform bill - legislation he said he applauded but, that he said, "doesn't go
"If you're serious about it, don't just talk about it --- act on it,"
Harrison said of Graham's purported inaction.
Graham responded that he is "deadly serious" about ensuring officers'
safety, saying that Scott's bill hadn't advanced because Democratic Senate
leadership "wouldn't' let it happen."
Harrison, an associate Democratic National Committee chairman and former
lobbyist, is Graham's most stalwart general election opponent to date. A
fundraising powerhouse, the Democrat has amassed a war chest of more than $100
million, skyrocketing past previous Senate fundraising records and blanketing
the state with advertising and mailers.
Graham has acknowledged the toughness of the race, which some polls have
shown as neck-and-neck, although the Republican has raked in cash of his own.
Raising about $67 million, Graham's third-quarter haul of $28 million
represented a quarterly record for any GOP Senate candidate.
There was an undercurrent throughout the race over the battle to confirm
Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, a contentious process
Graham oversaw as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. The process kept him in
the national spotlight for weeks during televised hearings and media
appearances to discuss the process.
Harrison has also highlighted Graham's previous opposition to election-year
high court nominations. Arguing that "elections have consequences," Graham has
said that he felt certain Democrats would do the same if given the chance.
On Friday, Graham reminded voters of his bipartisan approach to "qualified"
judicial appointments, noting he had previously voted to confirm two of
President Barack Obama's high court picks
"If everybody behaved like Sen. Graham, we wouldn't have the mess that we
have today," Graham said, of the partisan squabbling over Barrett's nomination.
"Wasn't Merrick Garland qualified?" retorted Harrison, referencing Obama's
2016 appointment held up by Senate Republicans who argued the president elected
that November should fill the spot.
As he has when asked by reporters for weeks, Harrison also refused to
outright answer if he would have supported Barrett's nomination had he been in
the Senate during her confirmation, ignoring repeated attempts by Graham to get
The candidates also sparred over health care, including legislation of which
Graham has been a part that would repeal the structure of the Affordable Care
Act, replacing it with an annual block grant given to states.
"I would replace Obamacare with something better for South Carolina," Graham
said, advocating for expanded broadband to beef up telemedicine, and saying
that, like other Democrats' plans, "When it comes to Mr. Harrison, there's no
limit on spending."
Noting that he grew up receiving Medicaid assistance, Harrison argued that
lack of expansion of the program has led to rural hospital closures in South
Carolina, adding, "No wonder our maternal mortality rates are so high."
As he did when they debated earlier this month, Harrison brought a
plexiglass divider, shielding his podium from Graham. Saying in the first
debate he needed to guard his podium because of Graham's recent exposure to
other GOP senators who had recently tested positive for the virus, Harrison's
campaign didn't immediately comment Friday when asked why he'd revived the
partition, as it goes beyond federal guidelines of social distancing.
In its closing months, the tone of the contest has become more contentious,
with sniping among the candidates and the groups supporting each of them
intensifying. Harrison has used some of his copious cash to try to steer
conservative voters toward Bill Bledsoe --- a Constitution Party candidate who
dropped out to endorse Graham, but whose name remains on ballots --- in an
attempt to cleave votes from the Republican.
Bledsoe has asked Harrison to "cease and desist" from what he calls
dishonest "dirty tricks" advertising.
Harrison said "not at all" when asked Friday night if the effort amounted to
political games, making an overt plea to voters to back him directly rather
than Graham or Bledsoe.
"It started hopeful, 'New South,' and now it's desperate, Mr. Harrison,"
Graham said, referencing a phase Harrison has repeatedly used to describe his
campaign. "This is the most manipulative, deceptive ad I've seen in South
Graham repeatedly compared Harrison to Democratic leaders including House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, prompting
Harrison to say, "I'm not Nancy Pelosi --- don't look like her, don't believe
everything that Nancy Pelosi believes."
For his part, Harrison refrained from mentioning President Donald Trump