The South Carolina Democratic Party concluded its annual political convention on May 22, which they hosted virtually as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to ease up across the Palmetto State.
The live-streamed event was highlighted by prominent South Carolina Democrats such as U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison and former U.S. Representative turned gubernatorial candidate Joe Cunningham.
“It’s always an exciting time to gather with Democrats from across South Carolina to discuss the future of our party,” Jay Parmley, the SCDP’s executive director, said. “Meeting virtually while respecting everyone’s safety and health does not dampen our enthusiasm for talking about 2022 and beyond.”
While the video speeches were often inconvenienced by technical errors, streaming delays and sound issues, it did not deter the energy from many of the speakers who tried to paint an optimistic future for South Carolina Democrats despite some tough losses in the 2020 election.
“More people voted for Democrats in South Carolina than ever before,” said Harrison, whose historic $130 million haul for his bid against Sen. Lindsey Graham still wasn’t enough to clench the office.
“And we still got a lot of work to do,” he said. “But hell or high water, we’re going to flip this state blue.”
This past election cycle was a win for Democrats nationwide by propelling President Joe Biden to the White House and delivering control of the Senate. But in South Carolina, it was a different story.
Bolstered by Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket, Nancy Mace upset Cunningham to reclaim South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, which had been a Republican seat for 40 years before it was interrupted by a single term in Democratic hands.
South Carolina Republicans expanded their majorities to historic levels in both the state Senate and House. GOP challengers picked off longtime incumbents who included the Democrats’ 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial nominee, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden, and their 2018 lieutenant governor nominee, state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell of Lancaster.
Republicans also won two other Upstate Senate seats held by Democratic incumbents.
But there were a few wins in 2020 for Democrats, mostly in Charleston County. The Democratic challenger for Charleston sheriff, Kristin Graziano, upset Republican incumbent Al Cannon in one of the party’s top victories and several endangered state House Democrats held on for reelection.
Additionally, Democrats picked up a Charleston-area seat in the state House of Representatives after Spencer Wetmore won a special election on James Island this past August.
And, as Democrats look to make gains in 2022, they’re looking back at their past successes as an example of how they can win. Cunningham, who has turned his sights on unseating McMaster in the governor’s mansion, laid out his hopes and policy proposals during the convention.
“We need a change from the failed leadership that got us here in the first place,” Cunningham said. “I know we can win, because I’ve won tough races before.”
Cunningham’s opponent, activist Gary Votour, also addressed the convention.
Democrats are preparing to take on Sen. Tim Scott, who is up for reelection in 2022. State Sen. Krystal Matthews, D-Ladson, and Spartanburg Democratic Party Chairwoman Angela Geter have both announced their candidacy and spoke at the convention.
State. Sen. Mia McLeod, D-Columbia, gave one of the closing speeches of the convention where she tried to rally the party to be bold and optimistic about some of the tough challenges they face next cycle.
“We didn’t quite get there in 2020, but we’re going to get there in 2022,” McLeod said.
Later that evening, Trav Robertson was reelected as the South Carolina Democratic Party chairman. The longtime political operative in the Palmetto State has held his current role since 2017.
“I look forward to getting to work,” Robertson said on Twitter. “Thank you to my fellow Democrats for the trust and the decisive victory!”
Reach Thomas Novelly at 843-937-5713. Follow him @TomNovelly on Twitter.
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