In front of the Azalea Square Cinema last week, we were approached by an upbeat young volunteer armed with a clipboard, who urged us to register to vote. We reassured him that we were already registered, and then shared our own experiences in voter registration drives at local high schools. Besides the obvious, and the fun, those drives helped us connect with the generation that will inherit the country and the planet that have been in our care, for better or worse, for the last sixty-odd years.
The young man plugged the forthcoming Democratic primary election (February 29, democrats, mark your calendars, SHOW UP!). His presence and enthusiasm came as good news to us, one more indicator the Democratic Party’s growing vigor here in Berkeley County.
Look at the key signs: the high county turnout that led to Joe Cunningham’s surprise victory to the U.S. Congress, J.A. Moore’s win for the state legislature in district 15 and Krystle Matthews’ success for the district 117 seat. These are all democratic wins in flipped districts, some held by the GOP for two decades or longer. Support for all these new faces has grown since their elections because they put local voter issues above party tribalism.
Look, too, at the rise in female candidates. Melissa Watson, the Berkeley County Democratic Party chair since 2010, is running against Tom Rice for the US Congressional seat in District 7. Kathryn Whitaker is challenging Larry Grooms for state Senate in district 37. Jen Gibson, who ran against Nancy Mace for state assembly district 99, will give it another run in ’20, Not incidentally, Whittaker and Gibson are alums of the Emerge Program, designed to support democratic women in elective office. Women interested in learning more can go to the Emerge South Carolina Website.
As Ms. Watson steps away from the county Democratic Party organization to concentrate on her congressional run, new blood is invigorating it. Precinct leaders are in place in 30 new precincts. The war chest has doubled. Turnout at events like the Fish Fry have risen strongly. Last week, the inaugural big-ticket Blue Moon Dinner was sold out. Officer elections to fill Melissa’s shoes, scheduled for March 14, promise a stronger, more no-nonsense organization focused on winning. The new party website and social-media initiatives make it easier than ever to connect, especially for newcomers to the county. Traffic there picks up weekly.
And there are a lot of newcomers here, 7339 more residents who voted democratic since 2018 and another 15,000 projected over the next five years. Many new residents hail from blue states in the north, as we did, and may be pleasantly surprised at their party’s growing footprint in such a red state.
The network of satellite and independent progressive groups in the county has grown as well. The West Berkeley Democratic Club, founded in 2019, boasts 112 members, mostly from Cane Bay, Nexton and Carnes Crossroads. New also is the Del Webb Progressives Group, an independent group with 78 members at latest count. It has done effective outreach work on several campaigns. Collectively, the rosters of two established progressives groups, Liberal Pour on Daniel Island and Drinking Liberally in Summerville, top 600. Membership has grown substantially since the 2016 Presidential election. month
Here is contact information for the respective groups. Berkeley County Democrats.
Berkeley County Democrats West Berkeley Democrats. Website.
South Berkeley Democrats. Website.
South Berkeley Democrats Drinking Liberally D.I. Website.
Daniel Island Drinking Liberally: Facebook
Summerville Drinking Liberally: Facebook
Bottom line: there are more Dems in Berkeley County than most people realize, enough to swing elections if we join forces, speak up and show up. The volunteer who set such an example at the Azalea Cinema should take heart.