One candidate to be South Carolina's next governor is touting a 50-year-long Kennedy connection with his latest endorsement.
Charleston Democrat Phil Noble received the endorsement Monday of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland and daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Bobby Kennedy.
"For years, I've watched Phil fight tirelessly for the causes and concerns that have long inspired my family's commitment to public service," Townsend said.
Townsend flew to South Carolina to campaign with Noble at stops in Columbia, Denmark and Charleston. Along the way, the two rekindled an old family connection.
After civil rights violence in Alabama in the 1960s — including the burning of a bus carrying "Freedom Riders" — then-President John F. Kennedy, Townsend's uncle, supported the creation of a bi-racial commission to improve community relations, including local pastor Phil Noble Sr., Noble's father.
"We found out years later my father was No. 1 on the Klan hit list," Noble said Monday. "I remember he used to lift the hood of the car to check for bombs."
Years later, Townsend and Noble collaborated on community projects. When Noble worked to launch a youth service program through the Palmetto Project, he looked to a similar program Townsend used to boost high school volunteering in Maryland.
Noble is facing two other candidates in the Democratic primary for governor, Florence attorney Marguerite Willis and state Rep. James Smith of Columbia — who has wracked up some high-profile endorsements of his own.
Noble's Alabama ties also have garnered another endorsement for the candidate. U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., endorsed Noble shortly after his special election win in Alabama. Jones, who prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members for civil rights-era crimes, also cited the Noble family's activism in the 1960s.
Recent polls show a tight race for the Democratic nomination in the party's June 12 primary.