The Charleston area has a special place in the heart of President-elect Joe Biden. As a U.S. senator, he developed close ties with the state through relationships with U.S. Senate colleagues Strom Thurmond, a Republican, and Fritz Hollings, a Charleston Democrat. More recently, his friendship with the Palmetto State’s U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, third in line in the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, led to a key endorsement when Biden’s presidential campaign needed a kick.
Those ties give a deep knowledge of the Lowcountry to the president-elect. And that could pay off in big ways, officials said. Not only could the area generate new revenue streams from the federal government for infrastructure improvements, but locals could secure positions in the administration to craft policies favorable to the state.
“South Carolina’s primary was a pivotal moment for Joe Biden,” said S.C. Rep. J.A. Moore, a Hanahan Democrat who in January was state co-chair for the presidential campaign for Kamala Harris, the California senator who became Biden’s running mate and is now vice president-elect.
Moore said the Lowcountry would benefit over the next four years because Biden and Harris will rely on aides who worked in the state and understand South Carolina’s needs.
“Who better than people in the Lowcountry to know about the flooding and transportation solutions that are needed?” he asked. “The hope is that one of the priorities will be the banning of offshore drilling and support additional protections against offshore drilling,” he said.
“My plan is to hit the ground running with our federal representatives and the new administration to ensure we have the resources we need to truly tackle COVID, flooding, traffic, affordable housing, public safety and racial reconciliation,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg posted on Facebook Saturday. “Those are our top priorities here in Charleston, and we’re going to do everything we can to make them top priorities in Washington next year as well.”
For years, Biden also has visited and vacationed in the South Carolina Lowcountry — so much so that he has introduced himself as being from Delaware by way of Pennsylvania, where he was born, and South Carolina, which he has grown to love.
‘We’ll have a much stronger relationship with his administration than any other president of either party,” observed Charleston native Bud Ferillo, a Biden delegate in 2020 who now lives in Columbia.
Charleston County Democratic Party Chair Colleen Condon said Biden won Charleston County by 13 percent — “the biggest win for a Democratic presidential candidate in several decades.” In Charleston County, Biden got 121,485 votes compared to Donald Trump’s 93,297 votes.
“A Biden presidency stands for hope,” she said. “It means a better economy for all. The stock market is rising. It means a country where integrity is valued, where all can afford health insurance, where all can get a quality education.”
Charleston Realtor Ed Sutton, who lost a race for S.C. House on Tuesday, said Biden and his wife, Jill, understand the needs of South Carolina’s veterans.
“Last year, my wife and I hosted Dr. Jill Biden for a Veterans Day event and we were deeply impressed with her knowledge of the Veterans Administration medical system and her commitment to cutting wait times for treatment,” said Sutton, a major in the U.S. Air Force Reserves who pilots C-17 transport jets. “A Biden presidency is a win for Lowcountry veterans.”
Biden’s strong links to South Carolina
It can be argued that without South Carolina, Biden wouldn’t be president-elect.
First, he won the Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina in February, the first big win that preceded a string of wins built on the strong backing of Clyburn, the Palmetto State’s kingmaker. Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden is widely viewed as the key to Biden’s win here, which was key to securing the nomination.
But much earlier, Hollings, who was chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 1972, tapped Biden as the Democrat for Washington senators to support in the Delaware race for U.S. Senate. Then 29, Biden was a county councilman and unknown to many.
“He ended up taking a chance on me,” Biden said in April 2019 at Hollings’ funeral. “He saw something in me that I wasn’t sure that existed, but he believed in me. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that that made me believe more in myself.”
Hollings was the first person that Biden called, other than family, when he won the Senate seat.
“He was there when I was on top of the world,” Biden recalled. “He was also there for me when I was at the bottom.”
Six weeks after the election, Biden’s wife and daughter were killed in a grisly traffic accident.
“Aside from my family, the first people to bring me back from that black hole that I found myself in were Fritz and Peatsy [Hollings] — and that’s not hyperbole,” Biden said. “That’s literally true, those of you who know our relationship. He convinced me to do what I didn’t want to do — to come and be sworn in. He convinced me to stick around.”
In the years since, Biden and his family often vacationed in Kiawah Island.