Politics & Government

Beto O’Rourke aims to appeal to SC black voters in his first campaign tour

The newest entrant in the 2020 race will launch his South Carolina campaign by visiting sites with special relevance to the state’s African-American community.

Beto O’Rourke will kick off his South Carolina swing Friday with a visit to the site of Rock Hill’s historic Friendship Nine lunch counter sit-in in 1961, the campaign announced Wednesday.

Later in the day, O’Rourke will visit S.C. State University in Orangeburg. The school is the state’s largest historically black university and the alma mater of U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, the House majority whip and South Carolina’s most prominent Democrat.

O’Rourke will also hold a town hall with state Sen. Marlon Kimpson in Charleston on Saturday.

The itinerary indicates that O’Rourke hopes to reach African-American voters, who made up 61 percent of Democratic primary voters in the 2016 presidential race.

But the highlight of O’Rourke’s visit will likely be his appearance the Russell House student union at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. O’Rourke will have a meet-and-greet with student Democrats at 11:15 a.m. before he speaks from the Russell House patio.

O’Rourke is the latest entrant in an increasingly crowded Democratic field for the 2020 nomination. A former congressman, O’Rourke narrowly lost to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in last year’s midterm Senate race, but gained national buzz for the attempt in a deeply red state.

The candidate will kick off his South Carolina swing Friday morning with a visit to Rock Hill, where he will tour the Friendship Nine site with Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys before meeting voters at Amelie’s Cafe at 8:10 a.m. In Columbia, O’Rourke is expected to tour Main Street with Mayor Steve Benjamin ahead of his Russell House appearance.

Later Friday, O’Rourke heads to Orangeburg, where he will meet with students at S.C. State University in the student center plaza starting at 2:25 p.m. He will finish the day with a meet-and-greet at Tradesman Brewing Company in Charleston at 5:30 p.m.

On Saturday, O’Rourke will speak with Lowcountry Students for Political Action prior to a March For Our Lives calling for gun reform in Charleston.

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Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.