COLUMBIA — Annejanet Harp, a Columbia pharmacist, was re-elected Saturday as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and she was giddy with support for President Barack Obamas re-election campaign.
Its all about hope, she said. Its all about whats best for the American people.
But if you ask Harp about Obamas recent support of gay marriage, she pauses, repeats the question and then laughs while looking at her mom before deciding how to answer.
No comment, she said between bites of $20 barbecue. Oh my god, no comment.
Most discussion of Obamas support for gay marriage has been on how it will affect North Carolina, a critical state to the presidents re-election and one that just voted overwhelmingly to change its state constitution to ban gay marriage. But Rick Wade S.C. adviser for Obamas reelection campaign said part of the campaigns S.C. strategy is to help us win back North Carolina again.
Could Obamas controversial comments reverberate in the Palmetto State a state that, like North Carolina, overwhelmingly approved a gay marriage ban in 2006?
Results were mixed Saturday at the partys annual state convention. Bakari Middleton, chairman of the Richland County Democratic Party one of the largest in the state also declined to comment.
Nobody wants to comment on that, he said.
U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, told the Free Times on Friday that he supports Obamas stance on gay marriage but I dont think it ought to be left up to the states. I think it ought to be national.
Gay marriage could be a divisive issue in the black community, especially in South Carolina where politics and faith often intersect. But state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, who is black, said she does not see Obamas gay marriage stance having an impact on S.C.s black community.
In communities of color, the people Ive talked to have been able to separate his position on this issue from other issues that are equally as important, said Cobb-Hunter, who on Saturday was re-elected to one of South Carolinas two spots on the Democratic National Committee. I mean people of color are not confused. We are not electing President Obama to be bishop. ... We arent looking to him for our religious beliefs. Hes the president. Thats a totally different matter, and voters understand that.
Wade, an S.C. native and director of the state Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services in the Gov. Jim Hodges administration, said Saturday he did not think the presidents re-election campaign would focus much on gay marriage.
I think we know the presidents record on this issue has evolved, Wade said. Were going to stay focused on the strategy, the message that weve already begun of getting people back to work and rebuilding the middle class.
South Carolina has helped North Carolina before. In 2008, S.C. Democrats sent 10,000 volunteers to knock on doors in advance of the general election, according to Dick Harpootlian, the S.C. Democratic Party chairman. And it was S.C. Democratic primary voters, in 2008, who gave Obama an overwhelming victory against Hillary Clinton that many political experts believe propelled Obama to the Democratic nomination, and the presidency.
Thursday night, at an exclusive fundraiser at George Clooneys Los Angeles mansion, Obama told a table of donors that had he not won South Carolina, he would not be president, according to Harpootlian, who was seated at the table when Obama spoke.
Saturday, as more than a thousand Democrats packed the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center to elect delegates to the national convention, Steve Kerrigan, the conventions CEO, tried to encourage South Carolina Democrats to volunteer in North Carolina.
They can do phone banks into North Carolina. They can call every friend and relative they know in North Carolina. They can send thousands of volunteers into North Carolina to knock on doors, to hold signs, to make calls, Kerrigan said in an interview after he addressed the convention. The direct person-to-person contact is what is critical in campaigns, and South Carolina and North Carolina can work together to help each other in elections. They have in the past and we hope they will in the future.
It did not appear Obamas comments hurt Saturdays convention, as more than 300 people filed to run for one of South Carolinas 67 national delegate spots. Thats more than 2008, when Obama was first elected, according to Amanda Loveday, executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party.