A former top donor to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is revealing why he’s switched sides and is now endorsing Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison.
“I no longer recognized him as the man I once supported,” Richard Wilkerson wrote in the Greenville News.
Wilkerson is the former head of Michelin’s North America unit, which is based in South Carolina. While he has contributed to Graham’s campaign for years, last month he endorsed Harrison.
Graham, he wrote, was once a moderate Republican who could reach across the aisle to get results.
“But I started having real misgivings about him when he failed to mount any significant defense when Donald Trump attacked his best friend, the late Sen. John McCain,” Wilkerson wrote.
Trump has insulted the veteran Arizona senator for years, both while he was alive and after he died of cancer in 2018. While on the campaign trail in 2015, Trump famously mocked McCain’s POW status, saying: “I like people who weren’t captured.” After McCain died, Trump resisted lowering the flag at the White House in his honor, said he was “never a fan” of the senator and complained he didn’t get thanked for the funeral.
Wilkerson said Graham flunked the character test by not defending McCain more staunchly:
“I asked myself, ‘What is the character of a man who will not defend his best friend? If he won’t defend John McCain, why would I expect him to defend any of us in South Carolina?’ My conclusion was that he was more interested in currying favor than in honoring the memory of a true American hero whom he had described as his best friend. I was extremely disappointed.”
Wilkerson admitted that Graham used to criticize Trump, but now he blindly defends the president and any notion of him as a moderate has vanished.
Wilkerson also noted that Graham supported changes to the tax law that helped the wealthy while giving only a “small benefit to working people.” And he slammed the senator for trying to block money for people struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“These two actions tell me who is important to him and I do not agree with his direction,” Wilkerson wrote.
Wilkerson concluded that Harrison could be the candidate who could reach across the aisle to “work effectively with people from both parties.”
Read his full letter here.
Wilkerson has donated more than $10,000 to Graham since 2011, the Charleston Post and Courier reported last month. He even served on the South Carolina finance committee of Graham’s brief campaign for president in 2015.
While Graham retains a polling edge, Harrison has outraised him this year, bringing in $7.36 million over the first three months versus $5.6 million for Graham. That haul caused the Cook Political Report to downgrade Graham’s seat from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican.” One unnamed GOP operative told the website that Harrison was “a very dangerous candidate to Sen. Graham.”
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