South Carolina 2020

No clear home for Yang Gang

Seb Peltekian
Medill Reports

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Venture capitalist Andrew Yang announced the end of his run for the Democratic presidential nomination after mustering minimal support in the first two contests of the year, Iowa and New Hampshire.

So where will his supporters, affectionately known as the Yang Gang, turn?

“My heart’s broken but I’m probably going to have to support Tulsi because she supports UBI also,” said Nate Gallian, 19, a student at the College of Charleston, referring Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). Universal basic income, or UBI, was Yang’s proposed “freedom dividend” — $1,000 a month to everybody in the country. Yang said that it would combat economic stagnation caused by automation.

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Medicare for All attracts support for Bernie Sanders

By Anne Snabes
Medill Reports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Corina Pittman, a college student with severe allergies, once bought two epi-pens that were each $200. She called this price “crazy.”

She is passionate about Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” proposal, which would end private health insurance and institute a single-payer health insurance system. That means the government would pay for everyone’s health care.

“I think it’s obviously ridiculous how much money we spend on health care,” said Pittman, who grew up in Pennsylvania and attends college in North Carolina. “My parents spend so much money on health care for our family.”
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Sanders rally in Charlotte draws a mix of committed, undecided supporters

Maura Turcotte
Medill Reports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sen. Bernie Sanders left his rally to a standing ovation. Macasha Campbell left undecided.

Campbell, 29, voted for the progressive candidate in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary and said she might vote for him again. Marijuana legalization, student loan forgiveness and health care expansion — some of Sanders’ key issues — are also some of her key issues in this year’s presidential election.

But, she added, she’s also interested in Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota moderate who scored a surprising third-place finish in New Hampshire, finishing behind Sanders and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“There’s a lot of bills that she has championed and gotten through,” Campbell said at Sanders’ Feb. 14 event in Charlotte. “There’s something to be said about results, and she totally has gotten results.”

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Black voters in South Carolina could boost Tom Steyer’s rise

By Brandon Raphael Dupre
Medill Reports

Easter Benjamin stood on her front porch watching Tom Steyer canvassers in bright orange and blue campaign shirts spill out of a van. Their shirts flashed across the backdrop of muddied grass and drab woods in a mostly African American neighborhood outside the small city center.

Benjamin, an African American prison counselor in York County, has seen canvassers in her neighborhood before, although in different shirts. Biden canvassers? she recalls thinking. Maybe Bernie? But these days she is so inundated with TV and mail ads and people knocking on her door, the campaigns all blur together.

“There’s so many running that it makes it so hard for the peoples to narrow down who to vote for,” said Benjamin, slouching against her porch banister as if exhausted. “Too stressed with the debt of everyday life, people’ll say, ‘I’m just not gonna vote’ and that’s how they lose a lot of voters.”

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Elizabeth Warren, Bertha’s Kitchen and yams

By Seb Peltekian
Medill Reports

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — We sat in Bertha’s Kitchen, a soul food restaurant. Our food — corn, rice, glazed yams, and, in Nirmal’s case, fried chicken — rested on trays in front of us.

Bertha’s Kitchen was honored with a James Beard Award in 2017. However, something told us that the reporters weren’t there to cover the menu options.

Looking up from our trays, we watched through the window as a van parked. The reporters descended upon the non-descript car, snapping photos and filming as if it was the most interesting van in the world.

A slender woman wearing a bright blue shirt and running shoes stepped out of the car and entered the restaurant.

The reporters huddled around her as she walked up to the counter and spoke with the employees. Some of them asked if they could take photos with her. She agreed.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren then greeted us.

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Sen. Warren visits black-owned restaurant to boost her chances in South Carolina

By Nirmal Mulaikal
Medill Reports 

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — When Nicole Planter, 47, saw online that Sen. Elizabeth Warren was at her favorite North Charleston restaurant Friday, she scooped up her 6-year-old daughter and drove there.

“This was our chance to see the woman who might be president,” Planter said. “I wanted my daughter to see Warren because she represents girl power.”

Planter, a single parent and mother of seven children, and her daughter Ming’Le arrived at the restaurant as Warren was leaving. 

“She stopped to talk to us and encouraged my daughter that she could do anything,” Planter said. “She just was very down-to-earth and easy to talk to.”

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‘No matter who wins’: South Carolina mayor calls for moderation, unity in primary

By Anne Snabes and Maura Turcotte
Medill Reports

Billy Keyserling, the mayor of Beaufort, South Carolina, governs over a small coastal city reflective of much of the state — largely Republican with some moderate Democrats.

Following Pete Buttigieg’s narrow win of more delegates in Iowa and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ victory in New Hampshire, the pressure on Keyserling’s state to deliver a clear front-runner with the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29 has intensified. South Carolina, hosting a more diverse electorate than Iowa and New Hampshire, will not only act as a bellwether for the South, but possibly for Super Tuesday’s 16 contests on March 3.

Keyserling has prioritized educating the public about Reconstruction and addressing environmental problems such as coastal flooding — two issues he sees as impacting political discussions in 2020 — since becoming mayor in 2008. He spoke to Medill Reports about the candidates’ takes on climate change, the importance of black voters to the primary and the similarities between the candidates.

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For one black activist group, Biden remains the front-runner

By Areeba Shah
Medill Reports

COLUMBIA, S.C. — In a tightly packed room with Joe Biden supporters stood Bernice Scott — the first African American to chair Richland County Council. Her dark blue badge, “Biden works for SC,” glinted as she swayed from side to side in sync with a gospel choir minutes before the former vice president entered the room. .

After a dismal performance in Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden stopped in South Carolina to salvage his campaign in the first primary state where black voters are a significant part of the Democratic electorate.

“You can always tell what a man is going to do with what he’s already done,” Scott said, referencing Biden’s previous record working with former President Barack Obama.

He already has the support of “Reckoning Crew,” a group founded by Scott more than 35 years ago to keep residents in rural parts of Richland County informed about politics. The group made up of prominent black female activists previously backed Sen. Kamala Harris, but turned to Biden after she dropped out.

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Biden flocks to South Carolina after early primary losses

By Shirin Ali
Medill Reports

As the depth of his fifth-place finish in New Hampshire became clear, Joe Biden arrived in South Carolina on Tuesday night in an effort to salvage his weakening presidential campaign.

Introduced by his wife, Jill Biden, and his campaign co-chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), the former vice president enthusiastically greeted a modest crowd gathered for his campaign launch party in the state.

“You have no idea how great it is to be back in South Carolina,” Biden said.

Biden, the longtime front-runner in the race for the Democratic nomination, finished a disappointing fourth in Iowa and received only eight percent of the New Hampshire vote. As he stood before South Carolinians on Tuesday, he asked his supporters to focus on the future, not his disappointing performance so far.

“Tonight though, we just heard from the first two of the fifty states. Not all the nation, not half the nation, not a quarter of the nation, not 10%, two,” Biden said.

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Scenes Around South Carolina: Voters on the Democratic presidential primary

By the Medill Explores South Carolina Reporting Team
Medill Reports

Medill reporters are traveling throughout South Carolina this week to ask the state’s voters their thoughts about the Democratic presidential primary and which candidates will receive their support. Here is a look at what they found during their first day of reporting and observing.

Brothers Demetrick and Jamaal Johnson talk about politics ahead of South Carolina’s Feb. 29 Democratic primary. (Maura Turcotte/MEDILL)

By Emine Yücel

CHARLESTON, S.C. — On a sunny Sunday afternoon in Rosemont, a neighborhood that lies between North Charleston and downtown, Demetrick Johnson, his brother Jamaal and some extended family members were drinking beer in front of their family house. The waves of laughter coming from the wood porch could be heard all the way down Delano Avenue.

A light conversation about the warm weather quickly turned into shouts as the two brothers started talking about politics ahead of South Carolina’s Feb. 29 Democratic primary.

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