SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WCBD) – Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and challenger Jaime Harrison (D) on Friday participated in a Candidate Forum at WSPA News in Spartanburg.
Each candidate was given 30 minutes to answer questions and discuss issues they feel are important to South Carolina voters.
The men took a hardline stance on one such issue, the COVID-19 pandemic, before the event even began.
What was originally supposed to be a debate evolved into Candidate Forum after Harrison on Thursday requested that Graham get a COVID-19 test prior to the debate.
Graham refused, saying that he tested negative last Friday, and had a note from his doctor confirming his health.
Harrison refused to be in the same room with Graham, saying he could not “responsibly debate in person” and potentially put himself, his family, and his campaign staff at risk.
Both men opened up the night talking about COVID-19, with Harrison – who has a pre-existing condition – emphasizing the importance of taking the virus seriously.
Harrison said that he supports a national mask mandate, and he would consider the prospect of children being required to get a COVID-19 vaccine to return to schools.
Graham, on the other hand, said that he would not live his life differently than everyone else, implying that if restaurant workers and people in offices could not get tested every day, neither would he.
Graham said that while he recommends mask wearing, it is not feasible to have a national mask mandate because it would be impossible to enforce. When asked about vaccination requirements for children returning to schools, Graham said that he would defer to Governor Henry McMaster and State Superintendent Molly Spearman.
On race relations and law enforcement, Harrison said that he believes he can bring law enforcement and the community together. While he does not support defunding the police, he does support demilitarizing the police and expanding community policing.
Harrison admitted that although he has not met directly with members of the Black Lives Matter movement, he has spoken to people on the ground in the organization.
Graham said that he believes in police reform, but in a not a war on law enforcement. He also has not met with members of the Black Lives Matter group, but said that he has met with pastors and members of the African American community.
Notably, Graham lambasted Harrison and democrats for not endorsing the police reform bill introduced by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), the only black republican member of the Senate.
To round out the forum, Harrison suggested that while his campaign is built on hope, Graham’s is one of fear: “Lindsey Graham is going to scare you.. but we are tired of being scared in this country and in this state.”
Graham on the other hand wrapped up by appealing to his conservative base, reminding them that “a lot is on the ballot: law and order, versus mobs and chaos.”
The event was moderated by News 2’s Carolyn Murray and WSPA’s Gordon Dill. WSPA’s Amy Wood hosted the event, which was sponsored by Nexstar Media Group, and SC Chamber of Commerce.