By Larry D. Smith
With the South Carolina Primary more than 21 months away, Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Cory Booker are in the middle of a fight for South Carolina’s “Soul.” Both Democratic presidential candidates rush in and out of South Carolina on what seems like a weekly basis, leading many to wonder aloud what distinguishes South Carolina as a battle ground this early in the election process? The answer to this question is simple; South Carolina will hold the first primary in the South, so the state will be the first primary state where African Americans voters will have the opportunity to share major input regarding the candidate who will carry the Democratic banner in the 2020 general election, and have the opportunity to face President Donald Trump.
Almost everyday, voters in South Carolina see Senator Harris or Senator Bookers in South Carolina while other candidates including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Marianne Williamson, Richard Ojeda, John Delaney, Sen. Kamala Harris, and Sen. Cory Booker are making the rounds at churches, town halls, and special events. Many of the other democratic candidates spend most of their time and resources in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Recently Sen. Harris has opened a full-time office in South Carolina with a staff to conduct outreach around the state. Sen. Harris’ team is connecting to voters at many events while Sen. Booker is using his national team to keep a close eye on the issues and concerns of South Carolina voters. However, as most voters in South Carolina know, and as former Sen. Hillary Clinton learned in the 2008 South Carolina Democratic Primary, your ground games count. Clinton learned that grassroots efforts matter. She also learned that you have to be able to match your ground game with the democratic political machine or in this case, Congressman James E. Clyburn. Many experts inside and outside of South Carolina believe that the road to victory in South Carolina will pass directly through Congressman Clyburn’s “Political Machine” and that his endorsement counts with voters. Congressman Clyburn says that he is not ready to give his endorsement as he stands on the sidelines waiting perhaps to see if his friend and former Vice President Joe Biden will jump in the race. So Congressman Clyburn stands idly by, while Sen. Bernie Sanders utilizes the team he put in place in the 2016 primary to gain a foothold in a state where the democratic primary will be decided by African American voters.
So look around you and you will see Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Cory Booker fighting for your vote at every turn as they both try to win South Carolina’s Democratic Primary and move on to face President Donald Trump in 2020.
In 2017, Kamala D. Harris was sworn in as a United States Senator for California, the second African-American woman and first South Asian-American senator in history. She serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on the Budget.
Kamala has spent her life fighting injustice. It’s a passion that was first inspired by her mother, Shyamala, an Indian-American immigrant, activist, and breast cancer researcher.
Growing up in Oakland, Kamala had a stroller-eye view of the Civil Rights movement. Through the example of courageous leaders like Thurgood Marshall, Constance Baker Motley, and Charles Hamilton Houston, Kamala learned the kind of character it requires to stand up to the powerful, and resolved to spend her life advocating for those who could not defend themselves.
After earning an undergraduate degree from Howard University and a law degree from the University of California, Hastings, she began her career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
In 2003, Kamala became the District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco. Among her achievements as District Attorney, Harris started a program that gives first-time drug offenders the chance to earn a high school diploma and find employment.
Cory Booker, elected mayor of Newark, New Jersey, in 2006, came by his civil-rights activism at an early age. His parents, Cary and Carolyn Booker, were among the first black executives at IBM. Booker was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up in Harrington Park, a mostly white suburban town in northern New Jersey. He studied at California’s Stanford University, earning a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in sociology. He was a star football player and was elected to the student government council. He won a Rhodes Scholarship to Queens College, Oxford, England, obtaining an honors degree in modern history in 1994. He met Rabbi Shmuley Boteach there and became president of the L’Chaim Society, an organization devoted to easing tensions between Jews and African-Americans.
After returning to the U.S., Booker attended Yale Law School, graduating in 1997. He then started several free legal clinics for low-income residents of the neighboring city of New Haven, CT. Returning to his home state of New Jersey, he was hired as a staff attorney for New York City’s Urban Justice Center and then became Program Coordinator of the Newark (NJ) Youth Project. Although professionally and financially successful, in 1998 Booker moved into a Newark housing project called the Brick Towers, which was notorious for its run-down condition and festering crime problems. He led the project’s tenants in their fight for improvements in housing, maintenance and security. That same year he won election to the Newark City Council in an upset victory over a four-term incumbent. The next year, as a council member, he went on a ten-day hunger strike to protest rampant and blatant drug-dealing in one of Newark’s worst housing projects. In 2000 he spent five months living in a motor home, staying on streets in some of the most crime- and drug-infested areas of the city to get an idea of just how bad conditions were.