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Biden Won Big, But Rock Hill Black Democrats Weren't A Monolith

Juanita Love voted for Elizabeth Warren Saturday in Rock Hill.
Steve Harrison
Juanita Love voted for Elizabeth Warren Saturday in Rock Hill.

The Hermon Presbyterian Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina, is a mile from Clinton College, a historically black school visited last year by Joe Biden and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Voters here – almost all black – were not a monolith. 

Willie Barber, who is retired, picked Biden.

"I went for Joe Biden," Barber said. "He has some of the views that Barack had. He wants to change a few things. He'll be best for our community."

There were voters like Barber across South Carolina. Biden won every South Carolina county, and he racked up his biggest margins in the state’s most rural areas.

Biden won York County, though, by a smaller margin than he did in the state overall.

Roy Turner, who is also retired, went for former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

"He’s with the black voters, and he looks out for the blacks," he said. 

Overall, Buttigieg had his worst showing out of the first four primaries or caucuses. The former mayor – who is gay – struggled in South Carolina, where two-thirds of the Democratic electorate was expected to be black.

The mayor’s weakness with black voters has been attributed to African Americans being socially conservative, as well as wary of Buttigieg because of race relations in South Bend. 

Turner had no problem with his sexuality.

"That’s between him and his God," he said. "It’s not for me to judge. He could be the best one in there. But it’s not for me to judge whether he’s gay or not."

He said that beating Trump is important because the president has "made a mockery of the United States and the presidential office."

His wife, Barbara, voted for hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent millions in South Carolina – but couldn’t dislodge Biden or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders from the first two spots. Steyer dropped out of the race Saturday night.

Sanders made a late push in South Carolina, trying to break Biden’s perceived lock on black voters. It didn’t work.

But Ikea McClure, an accountant for the Red Cross, has supported Sanders for more than four years. 

"Honestly, my mind was made up back in 2015 when I first decided to vote for who I voted for," she said. "This was round two. I hope the Democratic Party makes the right decision."

She said Sanders is "authentic."

"I feel like he does a lot of truth-telling," McClure said. "His track record speaks for itself."

Juanita Love, who is retired, entered the voting booth unsure of whom she would pick. She ended up voting for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

She said she picked Warren, in part, because she wants to see a woman as president.

The Democratic contest now moves to Super Tuesday, where 14 states – including North Carolina – will vote.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar were in Charlotte Saturday night, speaking at a fundraiser for the state Democratic primary.


Go behind the headlines with WFAE political reporter Steve Harrison in his weekly newsletter, Inside Politics. Steve will provide insight about and analysis of local and statewide politics. Readers will gain an understanding of political news on the horizon and why it matters. 

While you're at it, go ahead and take a listen to our companion podcast: “Inside Politics: The RNC in Charlotte,” hosted by Steve Harrison and Lisa Worf.