South Carolina Democrats elect first black woman to lead state party

South Carolina’s Democrats elected Christale Spain, the former executive director of the state’s Democratic Party, to lead the state party at their convention on Saturday. She ran with the support of top party leaders, including Rep. James E. Clyburn, and will be the first black woman to lead the state party.

Ms Spain, a longtime organizer in Palmetto state politics, was widely regarded as the front-runner in the race, a usually sleepy contest that has seen more candidates run than in more than 25 years. Her main rival, Brandon Upson, leader of the state’s black faction, portrayed her as an establishment candidate whose ties to the old guard would impede the party’s progress in a crucial election year.

Democrats supporting Mr. Upson were attempting to overtake a state party they believed had long been dominated by Mr. Clyburn – who helped President Biden win the state primary in 2020 – ahead of South Carolina’s debut as the party’s first primary state in 2024 and in the wake of a downturn in the 2022 midterm elections.

Still, it was Ms Spain’s connections, coupled with her campaign strategy – characterized by social media blasts and regular visits to county party meetings and cattle calls – that ultimately gave her victory. She won with the support of nearly 700 of the party’s roughly 1,000 state delegates in a standing vote. Before delegates could stand up to vote for Mr Upson, he conceded to Ms Spain in a brief speech calling for party unity.

As the next leader, Ms Spain will be responsible for preparing the state party for its prime-time moment: the first vote in the 2024 democratic presidential election. She will also have to rebuild a party in turmoil. Democrats lost several secure seats in the House and Senate and had low turnout during the 2022 midterm election, a year otherwise viewed as positive for the party nationally. Ms. Spain’s leadership will offer the Palmetto State Democrats a chance to recoup those losses and prepare for the national stage.

In a press conference after her election victory, Ms. Spain delivered a message to voters in South Carolina who were waiting for a more meaningful shift from the Democratic Party.

“Don’t wait any longer,” she said, promising to focus on year-round voter engagement efforts. “We know who our constituents are. We’re going back to pursue them and we’re going to kick them out and some more.”

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