Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was a point of contention for incumbent three-term Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison Saturday night in the first of three debates between the two.
The debate was held at Chappelle Auditorium at Allen University and was moderated by Judi Gatson of WIS-10. In the lead up to the event, a recent Quinnipiac University poll showed the two tied at 48% in terms of who in South Carolina would support them.
“Amy Barrett is one of the most qualified people in the history of the nation to be nominated for the Supreme Court, and she's going to get on the court," Graham said. "I’ve tried to be fair when it comes to judges. When President Obama won, I recognized he won the election; I voted for Sotomayor and Kagan, knowing they would be liberal justices.”
If confirmed Barrett could tilt the Supreme Court to the right. This shift could impact the Roe v. Wade ruling, which protects a woman’s right to have an abortion.
"Men have rights to control their bodies, and women should have equal rights to control their bodies as well. Listen, in the end of the day, this is an issue that is a hard issue, but I believe it is between a woman, her doctor and her God. ‘Politician’ shouldn't be anywhere in it," Harrison said.
Graham said Barrett would "decide Roe V. Wade based on merits." Graham has sponsored a bill in Congress that would eliminate abortion on-demand at 20 weeks along.
Harrison referenced a video of Graham from 2016. In it, Graham said if a vacancy occurs in the Supreme Court during an election year with a Republican president, then the seat should be filled by the winner of the election.
“This is not about Democrats versus Republicans, it's about right versus wrong. If you have established a precedent, if you have established a standard, then you should stick by it. Now, the one thing we have not seen with Sen. Graham right now, and the Senate Republicans who are in control, is this type of urgency to address the coronavirus," Harrison said. "The urgency is to push the Supreme Court justice even when they have two members of the Judiciary Committee who have COVID.”
The polarization of the coronavirus was also debated between the two candidates.
“The virus is a problem that came out of China, not Trump Tower,” Graham said. “The virus is serious, but we have to move on as a nation.”
Harrison said that the focus should be on South Carolina's response to the coronavirus not on blame.
“[The coronavirus] has impacted me personally, my grandaunt, Gladys, passed away this July, in a nursing home, by herself," Harrison said. "We shouldn't blame anybody for the inception of this disease, but where blame should come, is how we’ve handled this disease; whether or not we take it seriously.”
Harrison listed the numbers in relation to COVID-19 and South Carolina. South Carolina has seen 3,243 confirmed deaths attributed to the coronavirus and has 145,953 confirmed positive cases as of Oct. 3.
The candidates also addressed a variety of other issues, including police reform, which both supported. Graham said he does not believe there is systematic racism within the police.
Harrison said while he opposes defunding the police, there are some “bad apples” among them.
“We have to admit that there are some problems in some of our policing right now, and we have to work with our police and the community members to bring folks together,” Harrison said.
On climate change, both agreed it is an issue and were opposed to the Green New Deal, citing costs and partisanship. Graham said he would not “destroy the economy” in his solution to climate change, while Harrison said “we have to be affirmative in terms of focusing on this issue.”
Graham and Harrison will meet again on Oct. 12 and Oct. 21.