S.C. primary is crucial, Democratic lawmaker says

Nov 14, 2019

Rep. Gilda Cobb Hunter says South Carolina will be crucial in deciding on Democratic nominee.


Candidates are focused on South Carolina because it will play a crucial role in deciding the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020, Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter said at Claflin.

On Nov. 12, the veteran Orangeburg state lawmaker and member of the Democratic National Committee, analyzed the Democratic presidential contenders and addressed the state of politics during a session with The Panther.

“I think Vice President (Joe) Biden is a frontrunner, but I think his support in this state is a mile wide and an inch deep,” Cobb-Hunter said.

He has name familiarity and people know him, she said. A lot of what he has going for him is that he was former president Barack Obama's vice president.

Biden has a lot of relationships in the political world built over a long career, she said.

“Politics is about relationships and building relationships, and he is ahead now,” Cobb-Hunter said. “But if you look at his numbers over the last few months ... they went down and others went up.”

Cobb-Hunter said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders continues to have difficulty cracking into communities of color and the whole issue of diversity.

Attracting African-Americans voters is considered critical in South Carolina's first-in-the-South Democratic primary on Feb. 29, 2020. Sixty percent of Democratic voters in the state are black.

“Elizabeth Warren is really gaining steam," Cobb-Hunter said. "She has a good ground game and seems to be building up support nationally and also here in South Carolina."

Cobb-Hunter said Warren is scoring points with some voters because she is offering specific plans to address key issues, not just using talking points.

As the only African-American woman in the field, California Sen. Kamala Harris was expected to attract support in South Carolina. “There are some who are surprised that she has not done as well as she has because she is a woman of color," Cobb-Hunter said.

Harris has not caught on in South Carolina like some people thought she would, Cobb-Hunter said. Other candidates have worked just as hard to put an organization in place.

“Quite frankly, we are at a point in our politics even in South Carolina, where you can’t expect people to vote for you because you look like them,” Cobb-Hunter said.  “You've got to have something else going for you.”

Mayor Pete Buttigieg has had difficulty attracting black support in South Carolina. Cobb-Hunter does believe the reason has to do with him being openly gay.

“There’s this raging argument about how homophobic the black community is and is not,” Cobb-Hunter said.

Some such as S.C. Congressman James Clyburn have suggested the lack of support for Buttigieg is generational, with older African Americans reluctant to support him.

“Well I think it’s a mistake to think that only older African Americans are homophobic. There are young people who are extremely homophobic,” Cobb-Hunter said.

“I suggest to you if you look at some of the hate crimes that are being committed around the country, they are being committed by young people, teens and people under 25,” she said.

“So I don’t accept the pretense that old people are homophobic and young people are not."

The real issue for Buttigieg is not his sexual orientation, she said.

“He’s a mayor of a small town in Indian. He has had issues of police brutality in that town, and he has had issues with diversity," Cobb-Hunter said. "And so if the question is can he get over that with black and brown people, that depends on him and the messaging."

Andrew Yang has captivated people because of his propsoal to give Americans $1,000 a month.

“The interest in Yang is his focus on the income gap, the wage gap and inequality gap. There are a lot of people that want these candidates to talk about that,” Cobb-Hunter said.

“And unfortunately I don’t see many of them, if any, are addressing issues of poverty, inequality and wealth,” Cobb-Hunter said.

Cobb-Hunter does not believe any of the other candidates in the field have a realistic chance of getting the nomination.

“The question soon becomes, all right, how many of those people stand a chance? That is something that we’ll decide in South Carolina,” Cobb-Hunter said.

The candidates running in 2020 need to build a collaborative group of voters, she said.

“For us to win in 2020, it’s not about attracting Trump voters but to craft a message that will excite voters of all ages and give them a reason for voting,” Cobb-Hunter said. “Unfortunately the Democrats have not done that.”

“We keep thinking that people are going to feel like Trump is so bad that will get rid of him and that is not going to happen,” Cobb-Hunter said.

The successful Democratic candidate will be that person exciting voters across races and age groups based on bottom-line, kitchen-table types of issues.

“And impeachment is not one of those issues,” Cobb-Hunter said.

But she said President Donald Trump should be impeached because of abuse of power and breaking the law. “There is a laundry list of charges against him.”

She stressed South Carolina's role in deciding the nominee. As a diverse state with large populations of African Americans, along with Hispanics and Native Americans, it is different than other early-voting states.

She cited 2008 and President Barack Obama. “Please know that South Carolina in 2008 is the reason that Barack Obama became president of the United States.”

Obama won the state's primary in a landslide despite Hillary Clinton being favored.

“South Carolina has an opportunity a whole lot of states would die for,” Cobb-Hunter said the Feb. 29 primary that comes three days before Super Tuesday when more than 20 states will vote.

 A major plus in being early in the process is having all the candidates coming through and telling South Carolinians why they want to be president, Cobb-Hunter said.

“There is a reason why candidates go to places like Iowa and New Hampshire because people really run them through questions,” she said. “They want to know where you stand on particular issues.”

Cobb-Hunter wants students to get involved with the election process. Young people should pay attention to what is going on around them.

“The number one reason why you might want to pay attention to what is happening is because you will be adults, you will be in charge, you will responsible for cleaning up the mess that unfortunately some of us have left behind,” Cobb-Hunter said.

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