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South Carolina Senator Aims to Be First Black Woman Governor

State Senator Mia McLeod is throwing her hat into the race for South Carolina governor, hoping to become the first Black woman in U.S. history to hold a state’s top executive office.

(CN) — A South Carolina state senator is looking to make history in the 2022 general election by becoming the first Black woman in America to win a gubernatorial race. She's already made history by becoming the first to run for the Palmetto State's chief executive job.

Senator Mia McLeod, a Democrat who represents a district around the state capital of Columbia, said in a Thursday tweet announcing her candidacy that it is time to say "no to business as usual and stand up to the good ole boys who have never failed to put their own interests above ours."

It's been 15 years since a Democrat has served in any statewide seat, including the governorship, in South Carolina.  

According to McLeod, Governor Henry McMaster and other GOP leaders have failed South Carolinians for too long by only catering to their voter base and have neglected rural and underserved communities.  

“I’ve been fighting the status quo for 10 years. I reject the notion that South Carolina will always be a divided red state. I believe in a South Carolina where leaders have compassion,” she said in a news conference. 

If elected, McLeod wants to focus on increasing access to affordable health care, boosting the minimum wage, and securing more federal funds for repairing infrastructure and improving the quality of education, especially in rural areas.  

Lauren Brown, spokeswoman for the South Carolina Democratic Party, said over the past year the Covid-19 pandemic exposed a lot of cracks in the state’s educational system. 

“For one thing, when the schools were shut down some students did not have broadband access and it is not fair for a student to fall behind because the family can’t afford broadband. Not having a quality education system can make our state less attractive for business that may consider locating here," she said.

McLeod said problems in her hometown of Bennettsville, which suffers from a lack of opportunity and widespread poverty, is indicative of what is occurring in most of the state. 

“We are losing our best and brightest to other states because they want better paying jobs and better opportunities. Governor McMaster turned away federal funds that we desperately need because he only cares about getting reelected,” she said at the news conference in Columbia.

Brown believes McLeod has a good chance. She said it is no secret that the South Carolina Democratic Party is heavily African American. The party is working on getting more Black residents to register to vote because Democrats do well when they show up at the polls, she said. It is focusing voter registration efforts on Sumter, Greenville and York counties.  

“South Carolina is traditionally a red state, but this is an independently minded state but there have been several election cycles where democrats did not win, but they came close. President Barack Obama being elected proves that it could shift,” Brown said. “If we can get more Black and young Latinos who don’t usually participate, I think Democrats will do well in 2022.” 

Brown also pointed to the influx of residents from the West Coast and the northeastern states could contribute to a shift in South Carolina.

State Democratic Party Chair Trav Robertson said women voters could also impact election outcomes in the state. 

“Fifty-five percent of votes that were cast in the last election were women. Women casted 1.4 million votes in South Carolina, that’s 350,000 more women voters than men. This is a growing demographic that is good for Democrats,” Robertson said as he introduced McLeod at Thursday’s press conference.  

McLeod said, “It is time that we have compassionate leaders and leaders that connect with everyday people. I know what everyday people connect to because I am everyday people.” 

McLeod was first elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2010 and won a state Senate seat in 2016. She joins former Congressman Joe Cunningham and activist Gary Votour in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Despite their optimism, Democrats realize they are facing an uphill battle to unseat the incumbent GOP governor. All of the state's executive offices are held by Republicans.

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