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Sherrod Brown Finishes Key Primary State Tour In South Carolina

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, speaks at a Culinary Union hall Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Las Vegas.
John Locher
Associated Press
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, speaks at a Culinary Union hall Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Las Vegas.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) wrapped up his “Dignity of Work” tour over the weekend with several stops in South Carolina.

Valerie Royzman, editor of Kent State student newspaper The Kent Stater, covered Brown’s visit to the state. South Carolina voted heavily for President Donald Trump in 2016, but Royzman says despite that, Brown connected well with people.

“One woman – it was in Florence – she really didn’t know a ton about Sherrod Brown,” Royzman says. “Because she’s from South Carolina, he’s from Ohio – they’re different worlds. But after listening to him, she just sees that he is a person of the people. He speaks to the regular American. That’s what appeals to so many, I think.”

Brown’s tour has focused around a pro-worker message, but the senator says he’s learned a lot about people’s views on issues like funding for children’s initiatives.

“We undervalue children in this society, whether it’s lack of funding for pediatric health or for early childhood education,” Brown says. “And child care should be accessible and available to working class and middle class families.”

Royzman says people overwhelmingly expressed concerns access to health care and raising the minimum wage.

“He is willing to sit down at the breakfast table with a complete stranger and say, ‘What can be done for your life to be a little bit easier? What do Americans need right now?’” Royzman says. “Probably a lot of other candidates just aren’t as likable in that way.”

A statement from the RNC notes South Carolina overwhelmingly voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 and said Brown has a “far-left Democrat agenda.”

Brown’s tour has taken him to several early primary states, and Brown says he’ll announce by the end of this month whether he’ll run for president.

A Stop In Selma

On Sunday, Brown flew to Selma, Ala., where he joined other notable Democrats for a day of events commemorating the infamous "Bloody Sunday" in 1965. The demonstration began peacefully but ended in police beatings on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, an event that galvanized support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act that year.

After attending the Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast, which also included 2020 contenders Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (D-Ver.), Brown took part in a march over Edmund Pettus Bridge.

It was Brown's fifth visit to Selma, where he drew a connection between civil rights and workers' rights.

"We need to understand what happened here and we need to talk about it so we keep fighting on these issues," Brown told reporters at the breakfast. "It's clear we make progress and then we fall back because of Republican attacks on voting rights."

Claiming that the Georgia governor election was stolen from Democrat Stacey Abrams, Brown said: "It's not just a Southern issue, of course. In the north we see all kinds of changes in voting laws. We see suppression of the vote in 2016, purging of voters in my state in a big way. This fight continues. It's become personal in many ways because voting rights are so important to our country."

Voter suppression emerged as a key issue in the 2018 midterm elections in states such as Georgia and North Carolina, where a Republican congressional candidate was accused of rigging the contest there through absentee ballots. House Democrats signaled they plan to make ballot access a priority in the new Congress, introducing legislation aimed at protecting voting rights in 2020 and beyond.

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. A graduate of Hudson High School, he received his Bachelor's from Kent State University. While a Kent student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.
Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.