The Buzz

SC Democratic Party launches fellowship to recruit new candidates, leaders

S.C. Democrats have a new outlet for getting involved in politics.

The S.C. Democratic Party is launching a fellowship aimed at recruiting the party's next generation of candidates and political operatives.

Jaime Harrison, the state party chairman, said he noticed while traveling the state during last year’s election cycle that the party’s leaders from county to county are in their 50s or 60s.

Harrison said the state Democratic Party has had to hire young operatives from outside South Carolina to help run campaigns, a sign that talent in the state has not been cultivated.

"We need to get more young people involved in this party. Who will be the next generation of candidates? Who will be the next generation of political operatives?"

On Thursday, the S.C. Democratic Party will start accepting applications for the year-long fellowship named after U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of Columbia – one of the most successful Democrats, Harrison said.

The fellowship applications are due Sept. 18. The party will accept 50 fellows for the inaugural year, one from each of the state's 46 counties and four at large, with events kicking off in November.

The goal, Harrison said, is to build the S.C. Democratic Party's bench by preparing young adults across the state to run for office, help run campaigns or lead county parties.

"My goal is by 2020 to have 250 people all across the state trained and equipped to do just that."

The fellowship is one program that 39-year-old Harrison, the party’s first African American chairman elected to that post in 2013, has launched to rebuild the party after years of demoralizing losses.

Harrison also has brought national attention to the state Democratic Party with “Chair Chats,” a video web series in which he interviews Democratic Party leaders and presidential hopefuls.

Reach Self at (803) 771-8658