Voters of all stripes flock to historic Galivants Ferry Stump to hear 2020 candidates

Mix former state Sen. John Land’s southern drawl, chicken bog, the Pee Dee and four 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls.

What do you get? Galivants Ferry Stump.

The biennial tradition drew in at least 2,500 people from across South Carolina, stump organizers said. And they came to hear speeches from former Vice President Joe Biden; Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota. There were children, adults, teenagers volunteering for campaigns. And Mark Sanford, the former two-term former South Carolina governor who recently declared a primary run against incumbent President Donald Trump, also made an appearance.

Here are some highlights from the night.

Voters make the case for their candidate

South Carolina voters arrived Monday night ready to show off why their candidate deserves to be the 2020 Democratic nominee.

They wore T-shirts, pins and hats emblazoned with their picks’ names. They carried handmade signs to show off their pride.

Holding a “Republican for Mayor Pete” sign, 37-year-old John Dabrowski said he’s been a lifelong Republican voter since he was 18, when the Pawley’s Island resident got a full ride to Indiana University through the U.S. Army.

With a red “Make America Groove Again” hat on his head — a nod to his favorite band, Perpetual Groove —Dabrowski said he couldn’t bring himself to vote in 2016 for then-Republican nominee Donald Trump or then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, so instead, he voted for the Libertarian Party nominee, Gary Johnson.

“He’s a selfless servant. We need more people like himself in this world,” Dabrowski said of Buttigieg. “The policies that he has been putting forward, he’s going to be around to see. Joe Biden, ... whatever he does today, he’s not going to be around in 30 years to see. That means something.”

Dabrowski said he has heard from his Republican friends a willingness to back a Democratic nominee over Trump.

Should Buttigieg not make it past the primary, Dabrowski said he is not willing to back just any nominee.

“There are three to four names that I wouldn’t vote for because I’m a conservative Republican,” he said.

Then there was Amari President, whose involvement in politics extends beyond his legal surname and despite his inability to cast a vote in 2020.

That’s because President is 15, a sophomore at Ashley Ridge High School in Summerville, and is volunteering for Biden’s campaign.

“It’s time for America to be brought back together,” he said. “We need a president who’s not going to sow hatred, ... who’s not going to sow fear. A president who’s not going to divide us on our race, background. I believe that that president is Joseph Robinette Biden.”

Bernie Sanders stays home to calm voice

Two days before the Galivants Ferry Stump, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders nixed the stop from his schedule.

The Vermont senator’s 2020 campaign dropped the stump after Sanders began to lose his voice last week. Then his vocal chords became even more strained during Thursday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate in Texas.

U.S. Sen. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who also was scheduled to attend, also backed out.

Sanders’ absence was a disappointment for a pair of college students who drove a long way to see him.

Benedict College students Raymond Dixon and Tyler Gossette, both 23, drove the roughly two hours from their Columbia campus “to really hear what he had to say,” said Gossette, who was wearing a “Bernie” T-shirt. “If you can’t be here for us now, how we going to expect for you to be here for us when everything starts progressing?” he said.

Dixon said he understood Sanders’ reasoning for staying home.

“I definitely understand that,” said Dixon, who was also wearing a “Bernie” T-shirt.

“But I was looking forward to seeing Bernie Sanders stand and speak, give us a couple of words of encouragement.”

John Land fills in as emcee

Former state Sen. John Land stepped in as emcee, when U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn had to step down as the master of ceremonies. Clyburn could not attend “due to unforeseen circumstances,” according to his office.

Land, an iconic voice in state politics— (Listen to the former Democratic legislator’s speech on the state Senate floor about liquor) — has emceed the event five or six times before and was “glad to do it” again.

“It’s tradition and everybody loves tradition,” he told The State. “And the chicken bog’s good.”

A Manning native, Land said he was impressed by the four candidates, but he ultimately is backing Biden.

Nonetheless, Land said 2020 should be a “bellwether election.”

“I think people are going to turn out of the woodwork,” he told The State. “I think you’re going to see a 20 plus turnout over and above the record. I think the Democrats are going to take the country.”

Sanford stumps himself

Mark Sanford had barely stepped into the parking lot adjacent to the stump speech setup when he was flanked by supporters.

The former U.S. congressman from Mount Pleasant has been a regular at the stump, having represented up to the Little Pee Dee River.

Monday night, Sanford said he showed up for “old times sake.”

“This is a chance to talk to voters,” Sanford told The State, after having stumped in the Upstate, then Columbia and then Charleston. “This is a rather historic political gathering in our state. It’s just a treat to be back in Galivants Ferry.”

One of those voters was former university professor and Republican voter Bob Oliver, of Conway.

“I’ve been here for 40 years, and have probably made it here (Galivants Ferry Stump) half a dozen times,” said Oliver, who said he was a Democrat up until Ronald Reagan’s election. He voted a Republican straight ticket for the first time in 2016, he said.

But in 2020, Oliver said he hadn’t made a decision who he will back. Could it be a Democrat?

“It could happen,” he said.

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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.