Politics & Government

‘I intend to win’: Kamala Harris tells SC voters she’ll beat Trump in 2020

As South Carolina’s K-12 schools debate wages on at the State House in Columbia — where lawmakers are considering ways to reform public education — 2020 presidential candidate Kamala Harris told voters Saturday that classroom teachers aren’t paid their true value.

“I would not be here if it weren’t for a family that taught me I could be whatever I wanted to be — and didn’t take any excuses — and teachers who believed in me and nurtured me every step of the way,” the California Democrat and U.S. senator told about 1,000 people at Brookland Baptist Church during a town hall with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin in West Columbia on Saturday.

“We pretend to be a society that cares about education but not so much the education of other people’s children.”

Saturday was not the first time Harris has waded into the state’s public-education debate.

When teachers rallied at the State House last month, lobbying legislators for higher pay and less testing and paperwork, Harris tweeted a message of support, telling teachers she stands with them in their fight for better pay and overall better schools.

“This is not something that appears to be a campaign platitude,” said Columbia’s Deitra Matthews, a former teacher, who said Saturday she is in full support of Harris’ candidacy. “It appears that education has always been a pillar in her upbringing.”

Harris is no longer an unfamiliar face in the Palmetto State, home to the nation’s first primary in the South.

Her latest trip is her second time in South Carolina since announcing her candidacy, but third overall since last year.

For the first time since launching her bid, Harris stopped in Charleston on Friday. Her visit included a moment to pay respects to the families of the nine black churchgoers, including a state senator, who were killed in 2015 inside the historic Emanuel AME Church.

Saturday, Harris spent much of her morning shopping at black, female-owned businesses on Lady Street, leaving with new purchases but mostly stories of women who found their way out of bad situations to become successful entrepreneurs.

“It’s amazing to have you on the Democratic ticket,” Lavish Salon and Extension Bar owner Lyonisha Sanders told Harris. “We’re really rooting for you.”

But of all the 2020 Democratic candidates, one voter at Brookland Baptist asked Harris whether she can beat President Donald Trump in 2020.

“I believe this is a moment in time that we need fighters on the stage, who know how to fight,” Harris said. “I do. ... I intend to win.”

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Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.