Politics & Government

Bernie Sanders to campaign in Columbia before SC election; some Democrats not happy

Bernie Sanders is diving into South Carolina’s election campaign, and some Palmetto State Democrats are not happy about it.

Sanders will speak Saturday, Oct. 20, in Columbia at a rally of Our Revolution SC between noon and 2 p.m. The group, which has endorsed Democrat James Smith for governor, is an offshoot of the independent Vermont senator’s unsuccessful 2016 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Our Revolution SC is holding its two-day fall conference Oct. 19 and 20 in Columbia, starting at the Lourie Center on Friday and moving into the larger Koger Center for the Arts on Saturday. The event is free, but attendees are asked to register online.

Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist, has been a controversial presence in this year’s midterms. This week, Republican S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster released a digital ad attacking Democrat Smith for accepting an endorsement from Our Revolution.

At the end of the spot, black-and-white images of Sanders and Smith appear side-by-side under red words reading, “James Smith: Bringing Bernie Sanders to South Carolina.”

Sanders did not have strong support in South Carolina in 2016, when he lost the state’s early primary to eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in a landslide. But in the wake of Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, Sanders is considering a repeat run for the presidency in 2020.

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Some S.C. Democrats are not happy about Sanders’ visit.

Amanda Loveday, a former executive director of the S.C. Democratic Party, told the Associated Press that Sanders’ visit is “extremely selfish” and not in the best interest of the state’s Democratic candidates.

Smith campaign spokesman Brad Warthen said Smith’s support from the Sanders-aligned group is consistent with the Democrat building a broad base of support.

“Unlike the McMaster campaign, which practices the politics of exclusion, we practice the politics of inclusion,” Warthen said. “We have and we welcome the support of citizens who voted for Bernie Sanders as well as those who voted for Donald Trump, and everyone in between.”

Warthen said Smith and his lieutenant governor-running mate Mandy Powers Norrell are not scheduled to speak at the Our Revolution SC conference. Smith endorsed Clinton over Sanders before the 2016 S.C. Democratic primary, after initially saying he would support then-Vice President Joe Biden if he ran. (He did not.)

Biden will campaign for Smith this Saturday in Charleston.

But McMaster’s campaign is hoping to tie Smith to Sanders, who might be viewed as too extreme by moderate voters.

“James Smith is running on Bernie Sanders’ agenda of higher taxes, government-run $32 trillion health care, and abortion on demand,” McMaster campaign spokeswoman Caroline Anderegg said in a statement to the Associated Press. “The more voters learn about James’ embrace of the most fringe, radical ideas of the left, the more they will be turned off by his message that is wholly out of step with South Carolina values.”

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