Jennifer Mitulski knows her options.
Her first choice for president is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but she would also support businessman Tom Steyer or Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar if one of them secures the Democratic nomination.
An immigrant from Vietnam, Mitulski is also a disabled veteran who served in the first Gulf War, and she’s not scared by Sanders’ “socialist” label.
“I won’t ever vote for anybody that takes money away from the Department of Defense for a wall, where he could have gotten the wall built, bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece,” Mitulski said, criticizing President Donald Trump.
Come Saturday, voters across South Carolina will be able to cast their ballots in the state’s Democratic Primary.
The primary is open, meaning all registered voters can cast a ballot regardless of whether they support a specific party (South Carolina doesn’t register voters by party). There is no Republican Primary for the presidential race in the state this year.
Along with Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Klobuchar, Steyer and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be on the ballot. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is also running, will not be on the ballot. And don’t be surprised to see the names of some candidates who have dropped out of the race. If a candidate didn’t withdraw before the ballots were finalized, that politician’s name will be there.
Although Biden leads Sanders in South Carolina polls, national polls of Democratic candidates give Sanders a big lead: he’s polling at 28 percent while Biden comes in second at 16 percent.
Sanders currently has 45 pledged delegates of the 1,991 required to win the nomination without a contested Democratic convention, due to strong finishes in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Buttigieg is in second place with 25 delegates.
There are a total of 3,979 pledged delegates up for grabs, and if Sanders doesn’t hit that magic number required to lock him in, 771 automatic, or “superdelegates,” come into play.
The superdelegates consist of sitting Democratic members of Congress, Democratic governors, members of the Democratic National Convention, and other party leaders, most of whom are more moderate than Sanders and could sink his chance at the nomination if he doesn’t lock up 1,991 pledged delegates before the convention.
In South Carolina’s primary, candidates are competing for 54 delegates. On March 3, known as “Super Tuesday,” 16 other states hold their primaries. A third of all pledged delegates are up for grabs on Super Tuesday.
But the political world is focused on South Carolina for the moment.
A crowd of more than 2,800 packed the Myrtle Beach Convention Center Wednesday to see Sanders. Steyer held a meet and greet at Nacho Hippo in Myrtle Beach Wednesday, and Biden had planned to visit Coastal Carolina University Thursday after press deadlines (check myhorrynews.com for coverage of the candidate visits).
Mitulski, who stopped by the Sanders rally Wednesday, said she wants a candidate who is a negotiator.
“Meeting everybody in the middle,” she said. “Trump is like what my 3-year-old was, stomping his feet, pounding his fist. He wants it all and he wants it now. You can’t be that way.”
Although Mitulski isn’t put off by the socialist label, many other voters are.
If polls are right, Americans don’t like socialism, and a recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll showed only 35 percent of Americans would consider voting for a socialist. But all six national head-to-head matchup polls conducted in February show Sanders beating Trump. Only five of those polls showed Biden winning, with a poll by Emerson College showing a Trump victory by 4%.
Burgess resident Cheryl Bell said Steyer secured her and her husband Marvin’s votes.
“Tom Steyer didn’t start being who he was to run for president,” the New York City transplant said. “He always was who he was, and then he jumped in because he's like, ‘OK, we need help, and maybe I can do it.’”
Bell said she supports Steyer’s commitment to take action regarding climate change. She referenced her two godsons, including the youngest, a 10-year-old.
“He’s going to inherit what we leave him,” she said. “So that concerns me quite a bit.”
Bell added she appreciates how Steyer has “leveled the playing field with regard to people of color and opportunities” during his career.
She also respects his support for reparations for slavery.
“I admire his willingness to bring it up and make it part of his agenda,” Bell said.
Horry County has 219,820 active registered voters, according to the county’s website.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Those in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote. For details about polling places or to check voter registration information, visit scvotes.org.
For those who haven’t registered to vote in South Carolina, it’s too late to cast a ballot in this primary, although there’s still time to register before the local and state primaries in June and the general election in November.
In South Carolina, voter registration must be completed at least 30 days before an election.
To vote, bring an accepted form of identification: an S.C. driver’s license, an ID card issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, an S.C. voter registration card with a photo, a federal military ID or a U.S. passport.