When Jaime Harrison and Marie Boyd first met, it was right after the historic election of Barack Obama as president in 2008. D.C. was buzzing at that time, and they were in the center of it all because they both lived and worked in the city. He worked for Rep. Jim Clyburn while the politician was Majority Whip of the House. She worked at a major international law firm representing everything from civil cases to companies in need of direction on federal and state regulations.
Their first opportunity to connect was also their first date, and they were understandably nervous, more so than people usually are on a first date. The reason for that was because they had just connected on eHarmony at a time when online dating was a fairly new thing. They didn’t know what they were walking into when they met up for brunch, but as hoped, they hit it off well.
“I just thought that she sounded so interesting,” he tells ESSENCE. “She was doing all this awesome stuff and she was very family centric. You could tell her family was really, really important to her. And I know for me, it was the same.”
“We started talking and I felt like I had known Jamie for a long time, even though we had just met in person for the first time and were talking about our families and about our traditions and about food traditions,” she adds. “I think we just really connected.”
By February, they were writing down goals they wanted to achieve together: he wanted to run for office someday, she wanted to write a book, and they both wanted a family. Thirteen years later, after 11 years of marriage and a move to South Carolina, the goals they wrote down they’ve since accomplished. Though he didn’t win the race, Harrison did challenge Lindsay Graham for his U.S. Senate seat in 2020, raising the most of any U.S. Senate candidate ever. He was later selected by President Joe Biden to be chair of the Democratic National Committee. Marie, now an associate professor at the University of South Carolina’s School of Law, has published research in the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, and written and illustrated children’s books. They also are parents to two young children. The latter, Marie was pregnant with while Jaime was running his campaign. Then and now, the two have worked to ensure neither party has to forgo their dreams while they juggle full-time work and parenting with limited childcare support.
“I think the thing that has gotten us through is just communication,” she says. “We’re always going back and forth to figure out how we’re going to get things covered and get things done.”
What also helps is the fact that they sometimes have shared passions and work they can do as a team, like protecting voting rights and getting the word out about it for National Voter Registration Day (September 28). At a time when there are efforts to suppress people’s voices, particularly those of individuals of color in some Southern and Western states, they want to use their own voices as changemakers in their respective fields to not only speak out against that but to also encourage people to ensure they’re registered and ready to vote when the time comes.
“As a family, we believe in voting,” he says, sharing that they take their sons with them into voting booths during every election. “That is part of our family tradition because what we want them to do, what we want instilled in them is the value of voting and how important it is so that when they get older and they are eligible to vote, they understand that.”
He continues, “And we’ll also go out and protect it and cherish it and fight for it because my grandparents and Marie’s grandfather, I’m sure, didn’t always have the right to vote. So, we’re doing everything that we can, and at the DNC, it is pushing back against these efforts, these Jim Crow type tactics to keep people from voting. We’re working with HBCUs and young people, tribal colleges, several others. We’re putting millions of dollars into promoting voting and getting people registered to vote. We have tons of posters across the country with iwillvote.com and QR codes to get people to understand what they need to do in order to get registered and to exercise their right.”
When they’re not doing that important work, they have some laid-back shared passions, too. They love to cook together as well as bake because they are certified cake decorators. They enjoy traveling, when possible, and taking long walks outdoors. They also love decorating their home for the holiday and offering advice to one another, whether during his campaign (she was the co-chair of his policy committee) or while she works on her books.
They can count on each other for many things, including a total dedication to their family, which out of everything, they appreciate most.
“Really watching Jamie become a dad has been such a wonderful joy and seeing him interact with and give love to our boys, has just been, I think that’s probably the thing that I value most,” Marie adds. “I think we had a really strong love before we had kids. And then I think having kids has just really amplified that.”
As their love has grown, so have they grown as people. Jaime and Marie still have the sheet of paper they wrote their goals down on in 2009 and they marvel today at what they’ve been able to accomplish – together.
“Marie just signed a new book deal. Two new children’s books. They’re going to announce that soon,” Jaime says. “And she’s been doing artwork. I’ve run for office. We have two beautiful boys. And well, life is good. We are very fortunate, very blessed.”