Cory Booker makes first SC staff hires

Democratic presidential contender Cory Booker is bringing on two well-known political operatives to run his South Carolina primary election campaign.

Booker, who will be in South Carolina Feb. 10-11, is the first 2020 candidate to make staff public announcements in the early primary state that will be critical to winning the Democratic nomination.

The U.S. senator from New Jersey announced Monday morning he has brought on Christale Spain as his state director and Clay Middleton as his senior political adviser.

Both Spain and Middleton have worked previously for U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the state’s Democratic Party kingmaker whose endorsement in the party primary will be fiercely sought among all the Democratic candidates.

Middleton and Spain also each have deep party ties and strong connections to black voters whose support will be key to any Democratic primary victory in the state.

Spain’s resume includes a stint as executive director of the S.C. Democratic Party and state political outreach director for the 2016 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. She is also the founding chairwoman of the South Carolina Democratic Party Black Women’s Caucus.

Clay Middleton was the S.C. state director for Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016 during the primary season, then went on to serve as a regional political director for Clinton in Florida. In 2008, he was the S.C. political director for President Barack Obama’s general election campaign, then went on to hold positions in the Obama administration.

Though Booker will make his first visit to South Carolina next week in his capacity as a presidential contender, he has been heavily courting the state’s Democrats for months. He was in the state last month at a Martin Luther King, Jr., Day celebration; footage from the event was featured heavily in his announcement video.

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Emma Dumain works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, where her reporting on South Carolina politics appears in The State, The Herald, The Sun News, The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. She was previously the Washington correspondent for the Charleston, South Carolina Post and Courier. Dumain also covered Congress for Roll Call and Congressional Quarterly.