Presidential candidate Kamala Harris stops in Bennettsville Sunday

Pee Dee

BENNETTSVILLE, SC (WBTW/AP) – Presidential candidate Kamala Harris continued campaigning Sunday as she made a stop in the Pee Dee.

The California senator spoke at the Greater St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Bennettsville.

South Carolina is a critical state for Harris and the other Democrats vying for their party’s nomination. The first Southern state to vote, it’s also the first to feature a heavily black electorate, where success can bode well for a candidate’s future in the other southern states whose primaries follow.

Ahead of a round table in Columbia Saturday, Harris officially signed her papers to be a candidate in South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary, joining former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg on the ballot.

Many Democratic hopefuls are courting the state’s black voters. But Harris’ efforts underscore the emphasis that she is placing specifically on winning over black women, the Democratic Party’s most loyal and consistent voters. Languishing in many polls, Harris has lagged with black voters, who comprise about two-thirds of the state’s Democratic primary electorate.

Campaign staffers continued to bring more chairs into the room throughout the event as more people filed in. The room was dotted with dozens of women decked out in the traditional pink and green of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Harris’ sorority and network of support into which she has tapped in South Carolina and other places.

Asked about hesitation she faces from voters skeptical of her past as a prosecutor, Harris said she knew she’d see some challenges but argued the importance of having a seat at the criminal justice table.

“I knew I was going up the rough side of the mountain,” Harris said, of her decision to become a prosecutor, referencing a popular black gospel song, written by the Rev. F.C. Barnes and recorded by various artists. “Prosecutors have an incredible amount of power. Don’t we want that the people who are making the decisions are also the people who attend our church, whose children play with our children? … Don’t we want that? Are we saying that we should not be prosecutors?”

Lawrence called on the women in the room to be part of the history of Harris’ campaign.

“The women sitting in this room are the hopes and dreams of slaves in this country,” Lawrence said. “How dare anyone in this room not exercise that right?”

The South Carolina Democratic primary is set for Feb. 29, 2020.

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