Jaime Harrison, the chairperson for the Democratic National Committee, visited Little Rock on Wednesday May 18, 2022 for Think Rubix’ ‘Black Leaders at Lunch’ event, at which Harrison was the featured special guest. Shortly before the luncheon, which was catered by local favorite YGFBFKitchen, Harrison sat down with Arkansas Money & Politics to discuss the upcoming Arkansas statewide elections.
With early voting for the primary election underway and seven state executive offices up for election in Arkansas this year, the gubernatorial race is one that will likely be of historical significance. With Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) and Dr. Chris Jones (D) running, there is the distinct possibility that Arkansas could see its first woman governor or its first African American governor.
Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor and Public Lands Commissioner are the other executive offices up for election.
Harrison has been invested in state parties, expanding the map to help elect Democrats across the country. In Jan. 2021, President Joe Biden chose Harrison to lead the DNC.
In an exclusive interview with Arkansas Money & Politics, Harrison spoke of the local, state and national potential that is held within southern states.
“I’m really excited about the potential to really rebuild power here in Arkansas for Democrats, and particularly in the Black community,” Harrison said. “It’s a really important step. I often talk about the emergence of what I see as the new south.”
The “new south” Harrison, who is a South Carolina native, spoke of is one that has evolved continuously over the years. This is a south that, according to Harrison, is bold, inclusive and diverse.
“I believe that states like Arkansas and Mississippi and my home state of South Carolina are in that next wave and you can see it on a local level,” Harrison said, emphasizing the importance of mayoral elections. “You see the transformations of the cities, you see the investments and you use those as building blocks in order to get to the next step, and I believe that the potential for that is immense in this election cycle.”
Harrison also spoke of the reemergence of the ancestors of the African Americans who left the south during The Great Migration.
“Now we’re starting to see the great-great grandkids of those people come back to the south and come to places like Little Rock, Atlanta, Birmingham or Charleston – and that is starting to change the power dynamics of those areas,” Harrison said. “I think long-term that will have a great impact on the political implications in those communities. Arkansas is on the frontline of this sort of transformation and change.”
According to Harrison, the biggest question that needs to be answered is this: How can you build those commissions of Black, brown and white communities in coming together? His final word of encouragement for the people of Arkansas was to keep the state’s future in mind.
“The better days of Arkansas are ahead of her, not behind her. I think you see that with new leadership coming up – they’re looking ahead to seed the future for their kid,” Harrison said, also noting that people need to vote again at the same volume seen during the 2020 presidential election.
“Local politics are important, that is why mayoral races are also so important. It’s been mayors that have held communities together. My hope is that we can build off of their strength and utilize that to actually get some visionary leadership.”
Harrison also emphasized the importance of grassroots movements and getting involved with the local parties and all they do in the area. For Democrats, Harrison says folks should go to https://democrats.org/ to see what events and activities are happening in their communities.
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