By Barney Blakeney
As Charleston voters this week move beyond the chaotic activities of Democratic candidates’ town hall meetings and the nationally televised debate, the hour of decision approaches finding many still uncommitted in the fragmented environment created by the candidates themselves. Still there are those who remain unwavering in their support for one candidate or another. I asked two local political activists their thoughts as the February 29 day of reckoning approaches.
North Charleston state Rep. David Mack supports Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination, but he implores voters to cast their ballot regardless of which candidate they support. “The message is still the same – VOTE,” Mack exclaimed.
“The strength of the Democratic Party is our diversity. It’s also our biggest challenge. There’s a lot of energy on the ground coming from all the candidates. The key will be coming together after this is over. Though people often say ‘I’ve never seen anything like this before’, I don’t know that any of us have ever seen anything like what we have in the White House. Defeating Trump has to be the number one priority,” Mack said.
Political consultant Abe Jenkins who is working for Pete Buttigieg’s South Carolina campaign said he feels the average voter in South Carolina doesn’t know much about any of the candidates other than Joe Biden – and that’s only because of Biden’s association with Barack Obama. He cites the youthful inexperience of campaign staffers in the various camps as a reason many voters haven’t made personal connections with candidates.
Jenkins said Tom Steyer’s campaign likely has reached more South Carolina voters than other candidates because of his prolific advertising. Steyer has placed full page ads each week in The Charleston Chronicle and other Black newspapers in the state for the past three months. Black voters represent 75 percent of Democratic voters in the state. That will give Steyer some momentum in the fight for South Carolina’s Black voters, Jenkins said.
Jenkins predicts younger voters could prove decisive in determining the winner in South Carolina. Platforms that advocate free college tuition and tuition debt forgiveness are attractive drawing points to those voters, Jenkins said. And citing the ages of three of the leading candidates – Bernie Sanders 78, Joe Biden 77 and Elizabeth Warren 70 – Jenkins said young voters are looking 20 years into their future.
Jenkins added that a likely scenario may be that as candidate vie for the Black vote, openly gay Pete Burttigieg may get a strong enough showing from the LGBTQ community that opens for him a lane to victory in South Carolina.