Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is facing stiff competition from Democratic contender Jamie Harrison, asserted Friday evening that Black people “can go anywhere in this state” provided that they are “conservative, not liberal.”
The remarks came during Graham’s discussion of police reform and the anti-racism protests that have swept the country.
At Friday’s event, Graham touted his support for a conservative police reform measure proposed by Sen. Tim Scott ― South Carolina’s other senator, who is Black ― and argued that his opponent was not interested in bipartisan solutions. He avoided a question asking whether he had met with any Black Lives Matter leaders by saying he had met with “pastors and people in the African American community.”
“And here are the facts,” Graham said. “Do I believe our cops are systemically racist? No. Do I believe South Carolina is a racist state? No.”
Graham then asserted that Black people can only “go to the Senate” if they “share the values of our state,” pointing to Scott, who was elected in 2013. Graham predicted that Harrison would lose “not because of race but because he’s aligned himself with the most liberal people in the country.”
“I am asking to every African American out there, look at my record,” Graham continued, referencing his past bipartisan support for historically Black colleges and universities.
“I care about everybody. If you are a young African American, an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this state, you just need to be conservative, not liberal.”
Graham was speaking at an event in which both candidates separately answered questions from moderators. The unusual format replaced a more traditional debate, which was cancelled the day before because Graham refused to take a coronavirus test, which Harrison’s campaign had requested.
As the race continues to be unexpectedly close, Graham’s refusal to share his health status drew speculation, especially as numerous other high-ranking Republicans have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days.