SC lawmaker makes history as first black woman to run for office | New policies


By MEG KINNARD, Associated Press

BENNETTSVILLE, SC (AP) – Since the founding of the country, no black woman has ever been a governor in the United States. But South Carolina Democratic State Senator Mia McLeod says she’s the one person who can change that, despite the Democrats not being elected there to a nationwide office. ‘State for 15 years.

“I want to be the person who runs not because I’m a woman, and not because I’m black, but because I’m so connected and love the people I represent so much,” said McLeod, a inhabitant of the Columbia region. lawmaker, told The Associated Press ahead of the official launch of the 2022 campaign on Thursday. “It’s a huge responsibility, but it’s one that fascinates me.

McLeod, 52, spoke at length with AP during a visit on Tuesday to his hometown of Bennettsville, a rural hamlet about 100 miles northeast of the state capital. It is the seat of Marlboro County, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. Asked about her top campaign concerns, McLeod cited education and health care, noting the area’s crumbling schools and lack of hospitals since 2015.

“I believe rural counties like mine are a microcosm of what’s going on statewide, when it comes to our rural communities that have been left behind,” she said, arguing that Republicans as Governor Henry McMaster, during his first full term, had failed the state.

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According to Bobby Donaldson, a professor at the University of South Carolina who specializes in Southern history and African-American culture, McLeod is the first black woman to run for the best position in South Carolina. If elected, she would only be his second female governor. She would also be the very first black governor in the state whose constitution was reconfigured during the Jim Crow era, weakening the office in case a black person was elected to it.

A decade-long state legislator, McLeod was elected to the House in 2010 and to the Senate in 2016. A communications consultant, she has held a number of positions in state government, including as director of the Office of victim assistance and director of government affairs at the state probation department. .

In the Senate, McLeod has been making waves recently. In the spring of 2020, as lawmakers returned to Colombia following a brutal pandemic-related shutdown, McLeod stayed on the sidelines, citing concerns over his battle with sickle cell disease and calling for the decision of Republican leaders to hold a “deaf” and “deadly” in-person session as coronavirus cases escalate.

During a controversial debate over this year’s ‘heartbeat bill’, which would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, McLeod slammed Republicans for opposing the exceptions for rape victims, revealing that she had been sexually assaulted. The measure has become law, but is stuck in litigation.

Two Democrats have announced gubernatorial nominations: activist Gary Votour and Joe Cunningham, who in 2018 turned his congressional district from red to blue for the first time in decades, before losing his re-election to the Republican Nancy Mace last year.

When asked how she would differentiate herself from Cunningham, who traveled to South Carolina in the weeks following its launch, McLeod said she had not followed Cunningham closely, but waited with it. looking forward to an active primary, citing his willingness to challenge fellow Democrats on legislative issues. including redistribution.

“I am a strong advocate who is not afraid to stand up for the people and stand up for the people of the state,” McLeod said. “Even though I have to fight alone, and even when I have to fight members of my own party, I have shown that I have the courage to lead.

But McMaster is the enemy McLeod refers to most often, criticizing what she calls a leadership vacuum, especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Called in to give the Democratic response to the governor’s state-of-the-state speech this year, McLeod lambasted the Republican for bringing South Carolina to a “dark” place, arguing that McMaster pushed the economic reopening too quickly , had failed to institute a statewide mask mandate, and precipitated a return to in-person education five days a week.

Earning a statewide office in South Carolina is a tough climb for Democrats. Republicans have long dominated state politics, winning every statewide election for the past 15 years and controlling the governorship for more than two decades. DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison, who broke silver records in his 2020 challenge against U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, was beaten by a double-digit margin.

When asked how to overcome this kind of statewide calculation, McLeod said she would apply the same non-partisan standard to voter outreach as she does to constituent services.

“I never ask anyone for help, when they email me for help or call me for help, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans,” McLeod said, recounting the stories of voters from all political persuasions who asked for her help during the pandemic, citing difficulties with the state’s unemployment resources or the availability of vaccines – two areas where she says McMaster has failed the State.

“I know what is related to ordinary people, because I am ordinary people,” she said.

Recognizing the historic nature of her run, McLeod says she hopes to please all voters, regardless of race, although she understands that some may be linked to her candidacy on a personal level, such as an older black woman l did at a recent event.

“‘Baby, I’m going to knock on every door in Calhoun County for you,” McLeod told her.

“She finally had someone who saw her, and spoke her language, and spoke to her – no racial issues, no black and white, but just life and life and wanting the same for our families.” that these white men, who have held these positions historically, forever, want for their families.

“It’s not like I speak a different language,” McLeod said. “It’s just that they’ve never seen or heard someone who looks like me speak in a way that resonates with everyone.”

Meg Kinnard can be contacted at

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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