A prominent donor to Sen. Lindsey Graham said this week he broke with the South Carolina Republican to support his Democratic challenger after he started to question Graham’s principles.
Richard Wilkerson, the former chairman and president of Michelin North America, said in an opinion piece published Sunday in the Greenville News that he supported Graham until 2017 when he “started having real misgivings about him when he failed to mount any significant defense” of the late Republican Sen. John McCain, who President Donald Trump frequently attacked both before his passing in 2018 and after.
“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?’” Wilkerson wrote of Graham, who is one of Trump’s strongest defenders in Congress.
He continued: “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 is now endorsing Jamie Harrison, a former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. Though Harrison faces an uphill battle in his fight to oust Graham, a three-term senator, he outraised Graham in the first quarter of 2020. Harrison brought in a total of $7.2 million in the first three months of 2020, while Graham raised nearly $5.6 million.
Wilkerson said he has known Harrison “for years and had been impressed with his intelligence, his genuine warmth and concern for all people, and his moderate stance on the issues that confront us,” adding that he believes the Democrat will help foster bipartisanship among the parties.
In his criticism of Graham, Wilkerson said the senator was “a leader of … divisiveness” in Congress and that “the willingness to work across the aisle seemed to vanish” from him after 2017.
The retired businessman said he had written to Graham to tell him he “no longer recognized him as the man I once supported.”
Wilkerson also criticized Graham’s decision to support the Republican tax overhaul bill in 2017 as well as his recent effort to block the Paycheck Protection Program, which Congress passed in March to provide help to workers impacted by the coronavirus crisis.
“Apparently, he feels that it is OK to share government dollars with those who don’t truly need the money, but deny any small windfall to working people who have lost their jobs,” he wrote. “These two actions tell me who is important to him, and I do not agree with his direction.”