By MINDY LUCAS
Presidential candidate Kamala Harris brought her trademark “For the People” campaign to the Lowcountry, on Saturday, Oct. 5, where she spoke to several hundred people gathered at the University of South Carolina Beaufort – Bluffton campus.
Despite a change in venue earlier in the week – from Beaufort to Bluffton – and a somewhat overcast, rainy day, it was an upbeat crowd, and those in attendance seemed ready to hear what the junior senator from California had to say.
“I’m interested in her platform and what she can do to help the current state of our country,” said Kimberly Brown, of Beaufort, as she waited for the event, held at the university’s Campus Center to start.
As several hundred people packed the small room, another 75 to 100 stood out in the center’s lobby for a chance to hear Harris.
An educator and school counselor, Brown said she particularly likes Harris’ stance on education and raising the salary of public school teachers.
“It’s very important considering this leader has hired someone who has no public education experience,” said Brown referring to President Trump and his controversial pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.
But even though Harris checked several boxes for her, Brown had not chosen a candidate just yet.
“It’s too early,” she said, adding that she was going to see who was leading closer to the primary and would make her decision then.
“We have to have the numbers and we can’t be divided,” she added.
Electability is something just about every candidate passing through Beaufort County has addressed in one way or another. Harris broached the topic toward the end of her 20-minute talk before opening the event to audience questions.
“Is America ready, they say, for a woman of color to be President of the United States of America?” she asked Saturday’s audience. It was a question that received resounding applause and cheers.
“This is a conversation I’ve heard take place in every campaign I have – and now here’s the operative word – won,” she said, to more cheers.
Harris’ track record of winning elections includes serving two terms as District Attorney of San Francisco. When she was first elected in 2003, she defeated a two-term incumbent, and was re-elected to a second term in November 2007.
She went on to become a United States Senator in 2016, is the second African American woman in history to be elected to the Senate, and the first African American and first woman to serve as Attorney General of California.
On Saturday, Harris covered a range of issues from the economy to the border crisis to gun violence and healthcare.
On national security, she said, “The current Commander in Chief on the subject of the fact of Russian’s interference in the election of the President of the United States, prefers to take the word of the Russian President over the word of the American intelligence community.”
On healthcare, Harris detailed her ‘Medicare for All’ plan.
“And, we’re not going to take away your choice,” she said, a difference, she noted, between her and others on the debate stage. “You want a private plan? You get that. You want a public plan? You get that. We won’t take away your choice.”
But it was her humor and directness that seemed to get the most response from the crowd, particularly when talking about the President and promises made to working Americans.
“Dude gotta go,” she said, to a cheering crowd.
For Bluffton retirees, Ruth Lee and Ursula Mitrook, it seemed to be the right approach. The two stood next to each other and clapped throughout the speech, though neither had exactly landed on a candidate yet either.
“Well, yes and no,” Lee said, adding that she thought the other candidates, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, were “too old.”
“And Elizabeth Warren is too angry,” she said. “I’m tired of angry. I want someone who can speak clearly and precisely and appropriately.”
Above: Senator Kamala Harris of California held a town hall meeting at USC Beaufort’s Bluffton campus on Saturday, Oct. 5 as part of her campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. Photo by Bob Sofaly.