Until the S.C. Democratic Party primary on Sat. Feb. 29, we will publish candidate responses to three questions on issues facing local voters along with a brief analysis of each from two CofC professors. For more, visit

1. What would you do now and in the future to address climate change’s impact, particularly for poor and rural residents of coastal communities?

Climate change is impacting the poor and natural disasters are sinking vulnerable communities further into poverty. Under my Administration on day one, I will declare climate a national emergency and address the effects of climate change on the poor. I will direct every part of the executive branch to align their rules and decisions with the country’s global and domestic science-backed climate goals. I will also challenge Congress to pass vital legislation to enact a Green New Deal and provide additional funding to protect the country against climate and weather-related natural disasters.

2. How would you deal with enduring, stark racial inequalities in places like South Carolina?

In this country, there has been over 400 years of legalized discrimination and unfairness that has provided the deepest injustice to communities of color across this nation. The wealth gap is widening, not a result of individual or family choices but rather the result of structural racism in public policy.

The primary roots of wealth inequality is the richest Americans get to live by a different set of rules than everyone else.

Within the first 100 days of my presidency, I will start a formal commission on race relations to address systemic racism and poverty and develop solutions to best deal with and undo the injustices.

3. Why should South Carolina voters support you Feb. 29?

I will invest in the American people. My administration will promote a new Democratic narrative of how our nation can prosper and thrive. I will break the corporate stranglehold over our democracy and economy. Progress in this country will heavily depend upon the enactment of policies that provide all Americans with 5 fundamental human rights. My administration will provide all the right to a fair vote, clean air & water, quality education, and healthcare for all. My administration will address the inequities that divide us. I will promise to restore honor, build a more prosperous America, and provide justice to all.

According to the experts …

If you watch television, listen to the radio, or surf the internet, you’ve probably heard of Tom Steyer. Steyer is the self-funded billionaire presidential candidate who has dominated the airwaves over the past few months. Steyer has improved his position in South Carolina, where he is currently fifth, based on the Real Clear Politics Poll Average.

Steyer’s rivals criticize him for outspending his competitors and buying votes. However, in our recent book on the South Carolina primary, we find that campaign spending is not a strong predictor of candidate success in the state’s primary. Consider the 2016 Republican contest. In that race, Jeb Bush far outspent his Republican competitors, including Donald Trump, yet finished fourth with less than 8 percent of the vote.

Steyer’s opponents also criticize his lack of political experience. Fortunately for Steyer, our book also shows that political newcomers have just as good of a chance to win the South Carolina primary as more experienced candidates. Once again, 2016 is a good example given Donald Trump’s lack of prior political experience.

Steyer is more than an inexperienced billionaire, however, and has made some smart campaign decisions. He has held over 25 events and has nearly 50 paid staffers in the Palmetto State, more than many of his political rivals. Steyer also speaks about several issues that appeal to African Americans: the state’s largest Democratic constituency. As one example, Steyer has proposed investing over $125 billion as president in historically black colleges and universities.

Steyer still faces an uphill battle to win the South Carolina primary. He has struggled to secure key state endorsements — another important factor in our book. Further, he has a reputation as a fairly liberal candidate in a state where Democratic voters are more moderate than Democrats nationwide.

Jordan Ragusa and Gibbs Knotts are political science professors at the College of Charleston. They recently published First in the South: Why South Carolina’s Presidential Primary Matters (USC Press, 2019).

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