Metro-East News

Clinton, Sanders square off in South Carolina primary

Associated Press

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks during a campaign rally.
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. speaks during a campaign rally. AP

The spotlight for Democrats' race for the White House is on South Carolina, one week after Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in Nevada. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Clinton is looking to reverse the results of 2008, when Barack Obama captured 55 percent of the vote over her 27 percent in the Palmetto State. That year, about 23 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the Democrats' presidential primary. More than half of them were minorities. African-Americans make up about 28 percent of South Carolina's nearly 3 million registered voters, while young people ages 18 to 24 account for 8 percent, according to the state Election Commission's latest voter stats updated earlier this month.

Most polls indicate Clinton has a sizeable lead heading into the primary, but she wasn't taking any chances.

She has appeared frequently around the state in recent days, including a number of appearances before audiences of predominantly black voters among whom she is expected to do better than rival Sanders. Former President Bill Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, also campaigned in South Carolina.

Sanders has spent some time in recent days campaigning in the Midwest where several states hold primaries next month.

South Carolina Democratic Party officials are expecting a good turnout during Saturday's voting. But the totals are not expected to reach the numbers during the last contested Democratic presidential primary eight years ago.

Back in 208, Obama, Clinton and South Carolina native John Edwards were all on the ballot. During that primary, about 530,000 voters went to the polls.

State Democratic Party Chairman Jamie Harrison said this week he's expecting a turnout of between 350,000 and 400,000 voters statewide on Saturday.

Last week, in the six-way South Carolina GOP presidential primary, more than 740,000 voters cast ballots.

Here are snapshots of voters who went to the polls Saturday:

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Special education teacher Robert Bennett Terry of Mount Pleasant voted for Bernie Sanders, even though he says Clinton can beat Donald Trump and doesn't think Sanders can.

"However, Bernie Sanders is certainly someone who will bring change to all the people who need change in this great nation of ours," said Terry, who is white, voting at a middle school in suburban Charleston.

"I want to send a message — a strong message — that in the Lowcountry here, many people are hurting. I see that each week. I work with kids in a Title 1 school and their families. They need a break. They need higher wages. They need to have a better life."

I want to send a message — a strong message — that in the Lowcountry here, many people are hurting.

Robert Bennett, who voted for Bernie Sanders

Terry also said he's a member of the Green Party and thinks Sanders would do the most to help the environment. Voters in South Carolina do not register with a specific party and can vote in either party primary.

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Markos Young, of suburban Columbia, said he recently went to hear Hillary Clinton at an event in Columbia and "felt more connected to her" on issues such as racial disparities, health care and tuition.

"I was at one point considering Bernie, but she really swayed me on the issues personally affecting me," said Young, who is African-American.

Young, a 40-year-old University of Georgia graduate who works in human resources, said he's considering going to medical school and would have to take out student loans. He said Sanders' stance on free tuition sounds good, but he doesn't believe it. "I would love tuition to be free, but how? Somebody has to pay for it? Where's that coming from?"

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Birgitta Johnson, a professor of African American studies at the University of South Carolina, said she voted for Sanders largely because of his stances on education.

"He deals with structural issues rather than talking points" in education, campaign funding and infrastructure, she said after voting at a recreational center in suburban Columbia.

She said Clinton's saying the same things as when she campaigned against Obama in 2008. "She'll say anything to get votes," she said.

Johnson, 39, said she's still paying off student loans herself. But she's really concerned about her students, some of whom have had to quit because they're trying to go to school while working one — or even two — full-time jobs. Some of her students are working to support their parents and siblings, she said.

"People are not looking at the realities," said Johnson, an Atlanta native who has also taught in California and New York.

She said she believes Sanders will work to overhaul the K-12 public education. Knowing how to fill in bubbles on a standardized test is not preparing students, she said.

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Raymond Glover, 58, of Columbia, said he voted for Clinton because of her knowledge and experience as the wife of a former president, a U.S. senator and serving under Obama as secretary of state.

And, he said, "she won't take us to war," as he believes the Republicans would.

"I like Bernie, too, but Hillary will be better. She'll continue to move us forward and not move us backward as opposed to Republicans who want to strike things back," from Obama's health care overhaul to early voting, said Glover, who is African-American.

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