Four Democratic presidential candidates each gave their pitch to voters Monday in Galivants Ferry at the oldest political stump speaking in the nation.
Democrats descended upon Pee Dee Farms General Store for the taste of chicken bog, bluegrass tunes and the chance to hear the presidential hopefuls speak during this year’s Galivants Ferry Stump.
“It’s great to be back,” former Vice President Joe Biden said. The event’s keynote speaker in 2006, he applauded the Holliday families for keeping the Stump going for over a century.
“They have kept this tradition, which should never die,” he said.
Named after the history of candidates standing on tree stumps while talking to crowds of potential supporters, the Stump has been held every other spring for 143 years in Galivants Ferry. As the state readies for the Democratic presidential primary on Feb. 29, Stump organizers decided to hold an extra stump. Horry County Democratic Party chair Don Kohn said the gathering is a great opportunity to hear about candidates’ platforms.
Dressed in a sun hat and sitting in some shade, Realtor Cheryl Bell of Burgess fanned herself as she waited to hear the candidates speak. Monday was the first time the Atlanta, Georgia, transplant attended the Stump, having believed initially that the event was geared toward Republicans.
“I came out there to support the Democratic candidates,” she said. “I’m here to let them know that some of us are here in this red state.”
The Stump harkens back to 1876 as Gen. Wade Hampton rode in on his horse during a gubernatorial campaign. It has continued during election years to feature Democratic candidates at the general store off U.S. 501 near the banks of the Little Pee Dee River east of the Marion County line.
Johnson Holliday, a fifth generation Holliday, described the Stump as a “Southern tradition” — one he was excited to carry on.
“This year is very special,” he told the crowd. “We’re coming to a benchmark, the transition of one generation to the next. As a young advocate of love and peace, it is critical to pick the right candidates to lead our country in the right direction.”
This year’s Stump was set to host five presidential hopefuls; media outlets reported that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont pulled out of the event to rest his hoarse voice.
Those who attended the Stump could browse baskets or pin a tail on a photo of the president’s face positioned on the backside of a donkey.
Many held picket signs with sayings like “Boot Edge Edge” or sported clothing with phrases such as “Adios, Trump.”
Candidates spoke in front of the busy general store beneath American flags.
For Biden, continuing to deal with the ramifications of slavery is crucial, along with tackling domestic terrorism and white supremacy.
He referenced the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, that took the lives of four young girls in 1963, and the Charleston church shooting that saw nine black parishioners get gunned down more than five decades later.
“We are in a battle for the soul of this nation,” he said, adding the country must lead the rest of the world by example. “That’s why I’m running for President of the United States.”
Biden hopes to restore the middle class, which he called the “backbone of America.”
He champions adding a public option to Obamacare and investing more federal dollars into education, which he said could raise teachers’ salaries and provide a means to implement universal Pre-K.
“This is the United States of America,” he said. “There is not a single thing we can’t do.”
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said, “We don’t just need to win, my friends. “We need to win big.”
The stakes of next year’s presidential election is high, Klobuchar added, and voters want to have someone heading up the Democratic ticket who’s able to garner support from independent voters and moderate Republicans.
“I’ve done it every place, every race, every time,” she said.
Much of candidates’ speeches included shots at Donald Trump, who Klobuchar said is egotistical and only concerned with his own business interests, “running this country like a game show” and who would “rather lie than lead.” She added the president has greatly contributed to the nation’s debt.
“If we are not careful, he is going to bankrupt the country,” she said.
Klobuchar said it has been Democrats who have addressed rural hospitals closing their doors in the state and stood up for education, getting lead out of drinking water and climate change.
She wants to hone in on environmental efforts such as entering the country back into the Paris Agreement and bringing forth sweeping legislation, if elected. Klobuchar also advocates for initiatives like universal background checks, a public health insurance option and bringing into the U.S. less expensive drugs from countries like Canada.
The daughter of a teacher, she backs upping teacher pay, offering free admission to two-year community colleges and allowing student loan refinancing.
She also supports a law allowing teens to automatically register to vote once they turn 18 and a constitutional amendment overturning the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Said South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg: “I’m running for president because I believe our country’s running out of time.”
“Our country’s in a crisis,” the U.S. Navy veteran said. “The American people are divided, discouraged and doubtful at this very moment. We need to be rising to meet some of the toughest challenges we’ve ever known.”
Buttigieg was also critical of Trump, stating, “Every day, we’ve got a president tweeting out a new outrage in order to distract us from the fact that he’s not capable of doing the job.
“If you think his first term’s been problematic, imagine what would happen if we had to get through a second one,” Buttigieg said, eliciting boos from attendees. “Our infrastructure, our health, our safety, cannot wait.”
Politics affect one’s daily life, he said. He’s had family members helped by the Affordable Care Act, and loved ones killed as a result of the opioid crisis. His own marriage exists because of a single vote from a U.S. Supreme Court Justice four years ago on marriage for same-sex couples.
Buttigieg questioned events such as the separation of migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“What happened to, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me?’” he said.
Having experience in the private sector, he wants to bring jobs to and invest in communities, saying he knows what is required to forge economic growth, having found real solutions for issues South Bend has faced.
He thanked those who have raised their voices about the affordability of prescription drugs and said he supports lifting wages, empowering workers and respecting unions, as well as investing in rural economies that aren’t not getting enough support.
One of Buttigieg’s goals is to have an appointment with a psychologist be as routine as a physical, and he hopes to break the stigma that comes with addiction.
He also looks to combat systemic racism and empower black Americans if elected president.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joked that he was going to open a chain of chicken bog and boiled peanut restaurants in the Big Apple.
His priorities if elected will include looking out for workers, many of whom, he said, have been replaced by automated machines.
As such, he supports a “robot tax” for companies who replace a worker with automation.
Additionally, he desires a future heavy on renewable energy along with the creation of millions of new jobs, cleaning up the environment and universal Pre-K.
“People are struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “That’s what I hear everywhere I go.”
Not all Stump attendees were Democrats.
Republican Joe Reynolds hopes to unseat U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham next year and serve for a single term without focusing on financing and campaigning. He supports instituting term limits and wants to bring strong ethics to the U.S. Senate. Democrat Jaime Harrison, running for the same seat, spoke ahead of the presidential candidates Monday, highlighting issues including gun violence and what he calls a student loan epidemic.
No stranger to the event, Republican presidential hopeful Mark Sanford also made an appearance as a crowd member. Asked about issues he would tackle if elected, the former South Carolina governor said his party has lost its way when it comes to debt and spending.
He also praised the Stump event.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “This is what we ought to be doing on the Republican side.”
While Kohn, the Horry County Democratic Party chair, has noticed excitement as 2020 approaches — citing the HCDP website seeing record numbers for a non-election year — he admitted that getting the majority of state voters to vote Democrat is a challenge.
“It’s going to be hard,” he said, “but elections are all about getting your people out. So if we could get the people out that don’t vote and get them registered, we can do it.”