South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham just lost a longtime backer this week. Richard Wilkerson, the former chairman and president of Michelin’s North America operations, told the Post and Courier he is shifting his support to Graham’s opponent Jaime Harrison.

“I am confident that as our next U.S. senator, he will be a tireless advocate for creating well-paying jobs, improving our state’s health care system and training the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow,” Wilkerson said. “Jaime is the perfect candidate to bring together South Carolinians from all walks of life.”

According to the Post and Courier, Wilkerson donated thousands to Graham’s election races starting in 2011. When Graham entered the presidential race in 2015, Wilkerson was a member of the campaign’s South Carolina finance committee. Still, Wilkerson contends that it’s time for a change.

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From 2009 to 2016, Wilkerson and Harrison worked together when the candidate for the U.S. senate was a lobbyist. In that role, he advocated for creating new standards for tire manufacturers that would improve air quality in the state. Wilkerson says that Harrison’s leadership in that position is what gives him confidence that the native South Carolinian will work hard to bring “lasting economic opportunity to the people of South Carolina.”

In a press release shared with ESSENCE, Harrison said he was honored by the endorsement from “one of South Carolina’s most respected business leaders.” He added, “I look forward to working with all of our state’s business leaders to bring back hope to residents of the Palmetto State by building a 21st-century economy for all. When I am elected to the United States Senate, I will make it a priority to support our workers and never stop working to bring good-paying jobs to South Carolina.”

The Harrison campaign is riding the high of two standout quarters. In December, FEC filings showed that the former congressional aide had raised $3.5 million to go toward his election efforts. In the first quarter of 2020, Harrison brought in more than $7.3 million, outraising Graham by more than $1 million.

In addition to breaking fundraising records in a deep red state, Harrison has also brought in the endorsements of several key legislators. Senator Kamala Harris, former classmate Senator Cory Booker and former boss Representative Jim Clyburn have all thrown their support behind the optimistic candidate. The endorsement from Richard Wilkerson is another notch in what has been a very successful campaign.


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