South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison said Thursday that he was ending his candidacy to become head of the Democratic National Committee, leaving a race in which he failed to gain serious traction despite his longstanding ties to the party.
“I know what a path to victory looks like,” Harrison said in a note to supporters. “Despite strong performances at the debate and DNC regional forums, the votes are simply not there for me to secure victory on Saturday.”
He also said he won’t run for re-election this spring for the South Carolina chairmanship.
As he exited the national race, Harrison endorsed Tom Perez, the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Harrison said he agrees with Perez’ vision for the party, but that he hadn’t cut a deal or explicitly talked about a post within the DNC if the former secretary wins the election..
“Tom Perez has brought integrity, passion, and tenacity to every job he’s ever had,” Harrison said. “I have had a front-row seat to these qualities in the many debates and forums we have participated in.”
Perez and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., are the two front-runners for the DNC chair. DNC members will vote Saturday to determine the party’s new leader.
In an interview with McClatchy, Harrison said he thought he had more than the 27 votes (of 447 total) that the Associated Press reported earlier this week, but that he began to realize that many of the leaning-but-undecided supporters were beginning to succumb to what he called “external pressure” to support someone else.
“People always want to be on the team that’s winning,” he said. “To be quite honest, I’m a state party chair running against a congressman and a secretary. They have support from some of the biggest names in politics. ... Of course it was frustrating at times.”
He said he made a final decision sometime overnight, and informed his team over breakfast this morning before announcing it.
For the next two days, he’s asked his DNC supporters to support the candidacy of his former rival. “If you’re on the team, you’re going to go all in.”