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Harrison’s going national in bid to beat Graham, but he’s still scoring local nods

Jaime Harrison wants to be the first Democrat in South Carolina to win a U.S. Senate seat since the late Fritz Hollings first got elected in 1966. The state’s last Democratic governor wants that for Harrison, too.

Democrat Jim Hodges, South Carolina’s governor from 1999-2003, is formally endorsing Harrison in his bid to win the party primary and take on U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in November.

“I’m proud to support Jaime Harrison’s campaign for U.S. Senate,” Hodges said in a statement, shared exclusively with McClatchy. “Jaime’s building one of the strongest campaigns South Carolina has ever seen and is focused on making sure every South Carolina kid has an opportunity to live up to his or her dreams. He has the grit, determination and vision to be a great candidate and U.S. Senator.”

Harrison is the former chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party who earlier in his career was a senior aide on Capitol Hill to U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and is currently an associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee. At one point, Harrison worked for the now-defunct Podesta Group, a prominent lobbying and consulting firm.

Hodges’ support for Harrison is not surprising. Since losing reelection in 2002, Hodges has been a senior adviser with McGuire Woods Consulting while remaining plugged into the state and national political scene.

He has also not shied away in the past from endorsing in Democratic primary elections, considered in some circles a controversial exercise. In fact, in 2012, he endorsed Myrtle Beach attorney Preston Brittain for a U.S. House seat in South Carolina over Gloria Bromell Tinubu, who seven years later is now Harrison’s primary challenger.

Still, Harrison can mark Hodges’ endorsement down as just the latest high-profile thumbs up he’s received in the 24 hours since officially launching his campaign, which have included the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and several 2020 Democratic candidates for president along with Hollywood types like Shonda Rhimes and Bradley Whitford.

Hodges is also the the first prominent South Carolina official to formally endorse Harrison, though Clyburn’s endorsement is at this point just a formality — as Harrison’s surrogate father and mentor, he’s been backing his former staffer from the very beginning.

Other South Carolina Democratic leaders Harrison could hope to attract to his campaign in the coming months include another Dick Riley, another former governor of the state who served from 1979-1987, along with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham and retired Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.

Emma Dumain works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, where her reporting on South Carolina politics appears in The State, The Herald, The Sun News, The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. She was previously the Washington correspondent for the Charleston, South Carolina Post and Courier. Dumain also covered Congress for Roll Call and Congressional Quarterly.