CLEMSON, S.C. (CN) – Former Maryland congressman and Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney appealed to young voters to become politically active ahead of the 2020 election in a Clemson University town hall meeting Wednesday evening.
Delaney served as a representative for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District from 2013 to 2019 and became the first declared 2020 presidential candidate when he announced his bid through a Washington Post op-ed on July 28, 2017.
During his town hall speech on Wednesday, Delaney expressed that he was not going to focus on politics, but when the time for public questions came, Clemson University students jumped at the opportunity to ask about his policies and platforms.
“South Carolina is the center of the political universe,” junior Zachary Pate told Courthouse News while waiting for the candidate outside the Brackett Hall auditorium on Wednesday.
“Whoever wins the South Carolina primary will end up winning Super Tuesday and will eventually be the Democratic nominee,” Pate added, citing a CNN article that made the same claim about the Palmetto State.
Pate introduced Delaney to the auditorium of about 75 students and spectators, telling attendees that they too can have a say about what happens in Washington.
“I am just excited that Clemson is not just known for football anymore, and this is a really cool opportunity for students to engage in politics,” Pate told Courthouse News.
Delaney co-founded the successful Health Care Financial Partners and CapitalSource companies, but left the private sector when he ran for Congress in Maryland.
As part of the former CEO’s 2020 presidential campaign, Delaney has already visited New Hampshire and 99 counties in Iowa, other early-voting states.
Pate, a business economics and political sciences major, helped organized Delaney’s appearance on campus and expects many more 2020 candidates to make a debut in the state or at the university before the election is over.
Most declared Democratic candidates already have.
“I try to be respectful, and I like to talk to kids about what is happening in the world, because politics is really about that,” Delaney told Courthouse News in an exclusive interview after the town hall.
“They grow up in a world where they see gun violence and they see us do nothing, they see climate change and they see us do nothing. They want someone who actually has plans to get things done,” Delaney said.
This comes after Delaney told students that his generation left them with heavy burdens, including climate change.
Calls flooded Delany’s office moments after the big announcement went public in July 2017, he told town hall attendees on Wednesday. But, to his dismay, reporters were not on the other end of the line to discuss his plans for the country. The first question was, “So, when is your book coming out?” he said.
His book, “The Right Answer: How We Can Unify Our Divided Nation,” came out in May 2018.
The title was inspired by John F. Kennedy’s 1958 speech at the Loyola College Alumni Banquet in Baltimore, Delaney said, and accentuates the 2020 candidate’s philosophy, which calls for principled compromise above stark partisanship.
In most polls, Delaney remains to be overshadowed by more popular candidates in the Democratic Party.
At the end of the day, Delaney said, Americans want healthcare, quality education and jobs.
Delaney said he has a specific agenda for rural America and for communities that have suffered from under-investment, which includes incentives for people to invest in those communities.
“I actually have a plan that became law to encourage private investment in distressed communities,” he said, “I’ve got a plan to require 25 percent of government contractors to have half their employees in opportunity zones and then I’d like to double earned income tax credit in those zones.”
These opportunity zones were identified as part of legislation that Delaney led, which was passed in the Republican tax reform bill.
He did not vote for the bill but said he was happy that his legislation passed.
Delaney said compromise and bipartisanship are the foundation of his platform, but those two words are mischaracterized in the political narrative.
“Those are dirty words in politics. I do not think they’re dirty words, because if you look at every great thing we’ve ever done as a country, it always happened when we had a big coalition of people supporting it,” he said. “Our whole system of government was designed so that we need broad support to get things done, and if you reject bipartisanship and compromise, you are basically saying ‘I don’t want to do anything, I just want to make speeches.’”
Delaney said some issues, however, are not to be compromised.
“You shouldn’t compromise on your principles. Like I said to this woman here, who asked me about women’s reproductive freedom, I am pro-choice. I am not compromising on that, but I’ll absolutely compromise on infrastructure. I’ll absolutely compromise on tax incentives to get people to invest in communities.”
Earlier this month, Delaney endorsed Jaime Harrison in the South Carolina Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate.