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Rep. Bakari Sellers responds to Governor’s veto of Senior funding

For Immediate Release:                                     Contact: Bakari Sellers

June 12, 2014                                                   (803) 354-6205


Statement from Rep. Bakari Sellers, Democratic Nominee for Lt. Governor….

“I am disturbed that our Governor has chosen to turn her back on our state’s seniors.  Her veto (number 47) taking away $2 million from the Office on Aging to assist seniors to stay in their homes instead of having to go to expensive nursing homes is a slap in the face to South Carolina seniors.  Her veto message that the Office on Aging is growing too quickly does not hold water.  Our senior population in South Carolina is one of the fastest growing in the nation.  Our seniors want to find ways to age while staying in their own homes, not being placed in the expensive nursing home facilities.  Helping seniors stay in their homes improves their quality of life. It helps seniors, many of whom live on a fixed income, hold onto more of their life saving while also saving taxpayers dollars in the long-run.  I challenge the Republican candidates for Lt. Governor to join me in asking the General Assembly to overturn this embarrassing veto.”

South Carolina lawmakers repeal Election Day alcohol sales ban

admin-ajaxMay 29 (Reuters) – South Carolina is poised to allow alcohol to be sold on statewide election days after state lawmakers voted to lift the country’s last blanket ban on such sales at restaurants, stores and bars.

The state Senate voted 41-1 on Wednesday to repeal the ban, which critics considered an antiquated remnant of an era when saloons sometimes served as polling places. The ban, dating back to at least 1882, was intended to reduce corruption and bribery during elections, according to a state government researcher.

“We wanted to bring South Carolina step-by-step into the 21st century,” said state Representative Bakari Sellers, a Democrat who has been working to repeal the Election Day alcohol ban for eight years.

The measure, which passed the state House in Columbia last month, faced stiff opposition from some legislators who objected on religious grounds, Sellers said. The state Senate tacked on an amendment making it illegal to use, purchase or sell powdered alcohol at any time.

“It’s more of a southern Democratic philosophy, but I truly wish government would get out of our way,” Sellers said. “If you don’t want to drink on Election Day, you know what, you don’t have to drink on Election Day.”

Republican Governor Nikki Haley is expected to sign the law lifting the ban, but it will not take effect until after the state’s primary elections on June 10.

South Carolina is the only remaining state to ban Election Day sales of alcohol outright, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Alaska and Massachusetts still have bans in place but allow local governments to opt out of them.

South Carolina still has “blue laws” on the books that prohibit sales of liquor on Sundays. The state also bans all alcohol sales on Christmas Day.

Gary Dow owns Charleston’s historic Tavern liquor store, which during the early 20th century’s era of Prohibition, was a fake barbershop used by rum runners for their operations, he said.

He recalled that police shut down his business after he opened it to customers on Election Day in 2004.

Once the ban is repealed, Dow said: “I’ll probably open on Election Day, but I’m going to wait until I actually get something from the state that says I can do that.”

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South Carolina’s Ban on Election Day Liquor Sales May Go the Way of Prohibition

DRINK-master675Tony Suh, the owner of Harvard’s Wine and Beverage here, does not know why South Carolina’s government will not let him sell liquor on statewide election days.

He figures it is just one of the many quirks of doing business in this culturally conservative state, in league with his customers’ habit of parking their cars on the far side of the parking lot to avoid the attention of judgmental neighbors.

“I think it’s got to do with being such a Baptist place for such a long time,” said Mr. Suh, 43, who moved to the state from the New York City area eight years ago.

Now it appears that South Carolina’s Election Day liquor law, the last blanket ban in the country, could finally go the way of bathtub gin and the Anti-Saloon League. On Wednesday evening, the South Carolina Senate, following the lead of the lower house, approved a bill to rescind the ban. If the bill is signed by the Republican governor, Nikki R. Haley, South Carolina will join six other states that have rescinded similar laws since 2008, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, an industry group.

That would leave only Alaska and Massachusetts with Election Day alcohol bans, the council noted, although in these states, local governments may choose to be exempt from the prohibition. And it is another step in the nation’s long, slow coming to terms with demon rum and other once-maligned spirits.

Election Day alcohol bans were common throughout the United States in decades past, when politicians’ promises of free drinks played an essential role in many a get-out-the-vote strategy. South Carolina is a state known as much for its political chicanery as it is for its deeply held religious sentiment, and the fear that a crooked politician might buy votes with free drinks is the reason the state government here has clung to its ban for so long. But in the age of the robocall and the “super PAC,” the alarm over the possibility of a ham-handed votes-for-drinks scheme has come to seem downright quaint.

State Representative Bakari T. Sellers, a Democrat who favored overturning the ban, said he was among those exasperated to be wasting 21st-century time on a debate that seems more suited for the age of Woodrow Wilson. “It’s 2014, dude,” he said.

The ban did have its modern-day supporters, however. J. Todd Rutherford, a Democratic state representative who co-sponsored the House bill, said he had introduced similar legislation in previous years, only to have it scuttled by conservative lawmakers.

Mike Burns, a Republican state representative from Travelers Rest, S.C., was one of 20 legislators who voted against a bill in April that proposed lifting the ban. He said that he and the others were “making a statement” about the steady erosion, nationwide, of the state and local “blue laws” that once strictly limited the sale of alcohol for religious reasons.

The Distilled Spirits Council noted that since 2002, 16 states had rescinded bans on the Sunday sale of hard liquor, in whole or in part, with 38 states now allowing it.

“Many states had these laws for many years and, you know, everything has gone by the wayside, day by day, little by little,” Mr. Burns said.

The tradition of plying voters with drinks has deep roots in American electoral politics. In Virginia and other pre-independence Southern colonies, candidates were often expected to supply the libations for voters, said David E. Kyvig, an emeritus professor of history at Northern Illinois University. In the late 19th and early 20th century, political machines in cities like New York and Chicago regularly traded drinks for votes, a practice often denounced by prohibitionists.

The South Carolina ban, according to a legislative analysis of the bill to repeal it, was “rooted in the Prohibition era, when saloons sometimes served as polling stations for elections.”

For a brief period beginning in 1893, South Carolina controlled the distribution of all alcohol sales statewide through a dispensary system that proved to be hopelessly corrupt. P. C. Richardson, a University of South Carolina history professor, noted that in the mid-1800s, South Carolina political factions brought male voters to Columbia, the capital, and held them in cordoned-off “bullpens,” where they plied them with liquor before marching them off to the polls.

Mr. Rutherford and his allies had argued that the ban was not only hopelessly old-fashioned, but anathema to the conservative principle of limited government.

“This means that we take another step out of the Dark Ages and join the rest of the country in being able to go to a package store and buy alcohol on Election Day,” he said Wednesday.

Joe Berry, executive director of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association of South Carolina, predictably, is supporting the bill.

In Aiken, Mr. Suh, the liquor store owner, said that retailers like him would stand to earn a little more money if the bill became law. But he also wondered whether a change was worth the trouble.

He had grown accustomed, he said, to taking a day off from work when the polls opened.

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S.C. Rep Sellers visits Cordova senior center

Lieutenant governor’s race: Rep. Sellers says more money needs to be focused on elderly

Sellers_07_07Just short of his 30th birthday, Rep. Bakari Sellers says he knows the needs of seniors in South Carolina.

“There are many people who came before me who worked extremely hard their entire lives,” Sellers told about 20 seniors Tuesday evening at the Cordova Senior Community Center. “Unfortunately, our senior population is our fastest-growing population but it is also our quickest-growing population in poverty.”

As the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, Sellers said he would bring tax relief for those who provide in-home care for the elderly.

“We should have benefits in place and tax credits in place so you don’t have to pay everything out of pocket, so you can go help your loved one who just suffered a stroke,” he said. “We have to put more money on the line. I don’t think that is called wasteful spending, I think that is called taking care of a generation that needs us to take care of them now.”

Sellers said he would also have a meeting with the United States Attorney and Attorney General to form a task force to help protect seniors against scams.

“This has got to stop,” he said.

Sellers said he will be a voice for seniors who are concerned about where their grandchildren go to school and the roads they travel on.

He also said he would seek to dedicate dollars to research institutions to help find a cure for diseases that plague seniors such as Alzheimer’s disease.

“What is wrong with having those dreams?” he said. “There are so many things that need to be done.”

Sellers said he would ensure seniors can stay in their homes for as long as possible or to live in an affordable nursing home.

The Denmark Democrat has served four consecutive terms in the General Assembly representing District 90. He is not seeking re-election to the House seat.

Sellers is the only Democrat running for lieutenant governor. There are four Republicans on the June 10 primary ballot.

Sellers is vying to become the first Democrat elected to a statewide office since 2006 and the youngest lieutenant governor in the state’s history.

He would also be the first African-American elected statewide in more than 100 years.

Gladys Arends wondered how the programs Sellers proposes would be funded.

Sellers said he would seek to have a bill passed that would take about $107 million in excess revenue from the state, close sales tax exemptions and use funds from consolidated agencies.

He said one out of every three of those dollars would go to roads and bridges, the other to schools and the other to income tax relief and to senior issues.

“That is a billion dollars over 10 years without raising a single tax,” he said. “The problem is not that we don’t have the money. We don’t have the priorities.”

Sellers also cited wasteful spending in Columbia. He said the lieutenant governor’s security costs $475,000 annually.

“You know how many senior centers we can build with $475,000 a year?” he said. “How about meals on wheels? We can put that money into meals on wheels so seniors can get warm meals every single day.”

As the only Democrat running in a Republican state, Sellers said he believes he can win.

“I believe there are people who are sick and tired of what is happening in Columbia or Washington. There are people who just want that sense of dignity,” he said.

Sellers said ensuring seniors have adequate healthcare is also a part of this. One of his current efforts is to have a hospital built in Bamberg County. In 2012, the county’s hospital closed and was replaced by an urgent care center.

When Sellers’ mother, Gwendolyn, who suffers from leukemia, becomes sick or needs treatment, her nearest hospital is the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg – 33 minutes away.

“I am running for people like that,” he said. “Who mean so much to me where I have some responsibility to see where there is a gap. Right now there is a gap in the way we treat our seniors.”

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Young Democrat Bakari Sellers seeks to make history as lieutenant governor

The Post and Courier

Bakari Sellers - Post & CourierCOLUMBIA – There are only a few weeks left in this year’s legislative session and Bakari Sellers is running out of time.

Sellers, D-Denmark, is not seeking re-election for his seat as a representative of Bamberg County and he’s working against the clock to get legislation passed, while many of his colleagues have dropped their efforts in favor of trying again next year.

But for Sellers, what next year will bring is up in the air.

At 29 years of age, the son of a civil rights activist is a seasoned legislator hoping to make history – again.

Sellers is vying for the lieutenant governor’s seat, an unlikely bid that wold make him the first Democrat elected to a statewide office since 2006 and the youngest lieutenant governor in the state’s history.

He would also be the first African-American elected statewide in more than 100 years.

Sellers is the only Democrat running for the position, while four Republicans are running for the seat. The Republican candidates will face off on June 10. The winner of the primary will then turn his attention to the race against Sellers.

Win or lose, his candidacy will further his national exposure. Sellers has already been featured in Time Magazine and Politico, and frequents national cable shows such as “Morning Joe.”

Yet, being the lieutenant governor isn’t exactly a plum prize. The position has been widely regarded as ceremonial. But Sellers wants to capitalize on how Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell became highly involved with the Office on Aging and hopes take it a step further.

“I know that the South Carolina state Senate is going to be very inclined to work with me because of the fact that I’ve served,” Sellers said. “I’m a South Carolinian before I’m a Democrat.”

He wants voters to know they don’t have to be bound by the “same old preconceived notions of black, white, Democrat or Republican.” To make history, however, Sellers says everything has to fall correctly into place.

A win would certainly be an uphill battle for him, said Kendra Stewart, a political science professor at the College of Charleston.

“He’s fighting against a political culture in South Carolina that’s very conservative,” Stewart said. “For some reason, the Democratic Party hasn’t had the same traction statewide.”

But Sellers refused to entertain the idea that he wouldn’t win.

“When I first ran for office, I ran against a great man,” Sellers said. “There was absolutely nobody in the state of South Carolina who thought I was going to win.”

But he did. At the time, Sellers became the youngest person elected to the state legislature, at the age of 22.


Working across the aisle

It’s clear, Sellers hopes to carve a legacy that meets – and hopefully exceeds – the expectations that come with carrying his last name.

His father, Cleveland Sellers, was involved in the Orangeburg Massacre in 1968. Three people were killed and nearly 30 were injured when several officers fired into a crowd of protesters at South Carolina State University.

Cleveland Sellers was the only man who served time in jail on rioting charges. He was pardoned 25 years later.

From the stories he’s been told, Bakari Sellers said he knows J.P. “Pete” Strom Sr. always said Cleveland Sellers shouldn’t have been arrested. Strom was the chief of the State Law Enforcement Division at the time the officers were involved in the shooting.

Bakari Sellers reached out to Strom’s son, Pete, who hired Sellers in 2007, a year before he graduated from law school. Pete Strom Jr., said he was drawn to Sellers’ youthful energy.

Strom, founder of the Strom Law Firm in Columbia, believes Sellers is a consensus-builder whose strongest skill set is the ability to get along with everyone and turn strangers into friends.

“He gets the big picture,” Strom said of Sellers. “He’s not just some liberal Democrat who takes his marching orders.”

Sellers has everything most people are looking for, said Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, the House minority leader. It’s a shame that people would attach the party label to him, he added.

“The reality is, he is exactly what South Carolina needs,” Rutherford said. “No one else comes close to having the legislative experience and governmental experience, and being able to work both sides of the aisle.”

Democrats consider Sellers an attractive candidate. His only hiccup has been a DUI charge, which was dropped for lack of evidence.

But it hasn’t slowed Sellers down much.


The bully pulpit

Sellers says he wants to be lieutenant governor because there are needs not being addressed by the executive branch. Like his fellow GOP counterparts, he praised McConnell’s approach to the Office on Aging.

But there is more that can be done to better aid and serve seniors, he said. Through the Office on Aging, Sellers hopes to bring tax relief for those who provide in-home care for the elderly. He intends to roll out a more detailed plan for seniors in the coming weeks.

He wants to look into getting hospitals for rural areas of the state, by allowing them to operate under the Certificates of Need of larger hospitals. In his district, he’s leading an effort to bring a hospital to Bamberg County.

In 2012, Bamberg County hospital closed and was replaced by an urgent care center. When Sellers’ mother, Gwendolyn, who suffers from leukemia, becomes sick or needs treatment, her nearest hospital is the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg – 33 minutes away.

Sellers also wants to improve the state’s primary and secondary education system.

“The corridor of shame has now metastasized,” Sellers said. “And no one has done anything to properly address it. No one has had the ideas.”

He’s searching for funds to build a new campus for Denmark-Olar Elementary School, where there is no central air conditioning and where bookshelves in the media center sit empty. Many of the books the school does have are so old, teachers and parents have found their own signatures in them from when they were kids, a teacher noted.

Yet, with all those issues in his district, Sellers chose not to run for re-election to his seat as a representative while vying for the lieutenant governor position, because he believes it would have been unfair to the state’s citizenry.

Sellers brushed off rumors that he wants to use the lieutenant governor’s position as a springboard for a potential appointment to a national office and countered with his turning down an offer for a position with President Obama’s administration in 2008 because “it’s not where I wanted to be.”

Sellers couldn’t – or wouldn’t – theorize on future endeavors, adding he’s too caught up with this race. “I want to be a Democratic candidate that this state hasn’t seen in generations,” Sellers said. “It’s time for a new age of Democrats. Just think about the history we can make in South Carolina.”

Bakari Sellers Speaking at the 2014 Galivants Ferry Stump


Sellers, Sheheen highlight stumping at Galivants Ferry


GALIVANTS FERRY – Democrats and even some Republicans were on hand to get fired up and ready to go one more time at the Galivants Ferry Stump on Monday evening. The hot spring air got even hotter when Democratic candidates took to the carved cypress stump to — stump.

The 90-degree heat faded behind the Pee Dee Farms Co. general store, where on the porch one black state lawmaker with a unique, catchy name made a stump speech similar to a keynote speech by a black, former U.S. senator with a unique and catchy name.

In referencing South Carolina politicians before him, S.C. Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, struck a chord sounding similar to Barack Obama’s 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote that put him on the public stage when he said things such as, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America.”

“They realized it’s not about what South Carolina was, it’s not about what South Carolina is, but it’s about what South Carolina can be,” Sellers said. “They understood the proposition that it was no longer about black or white. It was no longer about red or blue or Democrat or Republican. It was about being a great South Carolinian.”

At least that’s what “hardcore Democrat” Tim Koch of Myrtle Beach thought when he heard Sellers’ speech that got the entire crowd of nearly 100 on their feet. Sellers covered all the bases from anecdotes and history to a bit of stump covered by youthful charisma that Koch said is needed to keep the party going.

“I think he’s dynamic,” Koch said. “Tommy Brittan called him a rock star. He appeals to people because he’s intelligent, he’s young, he’s a handsome guy. He could be the future of our party. I hope he’ll get to be well known quickly. because he’s very, very dynamic.”

Sellers is the only Democrat running for lieutenant governor against a field of four Republicans that will be whittled down to one in the June 10 primary or a subsequent runoff two weeks later, but he sounded like a politician running for a higher office, referencing history and campaign anecdotes.

“While (Governor) Nikki Haley and other Republicans want to make the health care battle about what’s going on in D.C., I have people that when they get a heart attack, they die, because they cannot travel 35 miles away to the nearest hospital,” Sellers said.

Preceding Sellers was Democrat gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, who brought people to their feet thanks to a trusted stump speech that decried the S.C. Department of Revenue data breach scandal and the tuberculosis outbreak. He also called out Gov. Nikki Haley for past budget vetoes on education.

“Y’all, she vetoed funding for teacher pay raises, and then in an election year she claims she’s for public education,” Sheheen said. “That is not leadership, Nikki Haley, that is politics, and in 2014, we’re going to change it. Because it is not honest leadership to have a governor who is blocking almost a billion of our taxpayer dollars that could help 300,000 working South Carolinians with health insurance. That’s not leadership. That’s just stupid.”

Another big name at the event — which has drawn Democrats to the cypress stump near the banks of the Little Pee Dee River since 1876 — was Georgetown native and Coastal Carolina professor Gloria Bromell Tinubu, who again is challenging U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-South Carolina, for the 7th Congressional District seat.

“This Democratic Party has to decide whether it’s going to be a party of big citizens or a party of big money,” Tinubu said. “And I say the way we honor the people that sacrifice before us and honor the children that come behind is that we stand united today as the big citizens that both our democracy and our economy demands.”

State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, who is up against Jay Stamper (whom some state Democratic Party leaders have branded “not a real Democrat”) in the June 10 primary for the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, pledged to the crowd that he’d do more talking about the state than Graham does on television.

“You know if you see him on television, and you see him there a lot, you know one thing he’s not talking about; he’s not talking about South Carolina,” Hutto said. “He might be talking about Afghanistan, he might be talking about some other place overseas, but he’s not talking about us. I want to go to Washington to put us first, to put South Carolina first.”

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First on CNN: O’Malley to mingle with 2016 players at D.C. fundraiser

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Governor Martin O'MalleyMartin O’Malley will mingle with a handful of early primary state power brokers next week at a closed-door Washington fundraiser for a top South Carolina Democrat.

The Maryland governor, who has been candid about his inclination to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, has signed on to co-host the May 14 Capitol Hill fundraiser for South Carolina lieutenant governor candidate Bakari Sellers, a Democratic source in the state told CNN.

Sellers, a 29-year-old African-American state legislator, is the son of a local civil rights legend and an up-and-comer in state Democratic politics. He also worked for Barack Obama’s victorious 2008 primary effort in South Carolina, one of the four leadoff presidential nominating states. In other words, he’s precisely the kind of person a potential candidate would like to have on his (or her) side in a primary campaign.

But O’Malley will also have the chance to connect with several other South Carolina Democratic notables on the host committee, including former Gov. Jim Hodges, state party chairman Jaime Harrison, former Obama administration official Anton Gunn and Yelberton Watkins, the chief of staff to Rep. James Clyburn.

Al From, the founder of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and a longtime associate of former President Bill Clinton, is also slated to attend the cocktail fundraiser, which will be held at the Capitol Hill home of Democratic political strategist John Jameson.

O’Malley, who has maintained a busy travel schedule campaigning for Democratic gubernatorial candidates this election cycle, will be in South Carolina later this week, attending his daughter’s college graduation and holding a campaign event with Vincent Sheheen, the state’s Democratic nominee for governor.

Vice President Joe Biden will also visit South Carolina on Friday, delivering the University of South Carolina commencement speech and squeezing in a fundraiser for the state Democratic Party.

If O’Malley decides to seek the Democratic nomination in 2016 against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or Biden, he would enter the race as an underdog.

But at this stage of the so-called invisible primary, O’Malley has not been shy about introducing himself to early state power brokers. He’s been far more aggressive than Clinton in courting early primary state activists, officials and donors in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada – and in states that have competitive gubernatorial races in 2014.

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Bill to combat sexually transmitted HPV virus moves forward in S.C. Senate

Bakari SellersBy Jeremy Borden, The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA - A second push in the past two years to create a program that would provide an option for parents to vaccinate their middle school children against a common sexually transmitted infection cleared a hurdle in the S.C. Senate on Wednesday.

The bill would set up a state program to implement a voluntary vaccination and education program on human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cancer. It is the most common sexually transmitted infection and anyone can contract it, including those who only have sex with one partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Doctors generally recommend vaccinations for 11- and 12-year-olds, supporters said.

A Senate subcommittee advanced the bill, H. 3236, to the full Medical Affairs Committee. The S.C. House has already passed the bill. Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, voted against the measure. The program would cost about $465,000 and would provide vaccinations to those who don’t qualify for other federal and state programs.

Bright said in an interview that he’s concerned that information about potential side effects of the HPV vaccine might not be presented to parents. “We all want to prevent cancer,” he said. “(Parents and children) need to know the pros and cons.”

The bill has already passed the General Assembly before, only to be vetoed by Gov. Nikki Haley. Haley supported the measure when she was a member of the S.C. House but vetoed it as governor in 2012 because she said the decision to vaccinate is up to parents.

“As a mother of a teenage daughter, Governor Haley, like the majority of South Carolinians, believes that health decisions like this are best left up to parents and doctors – not state government,” Haley’s spokesman Doug Mayer said Wednesday.

Lisa Kerr, a 42-year-old from Charleston, told the committee that she was diagnosed with cervical cancer caused by HPV in 2010. She wept as she described her ability to have children being taken away after surgery and treatment.

“Any of us who is sexually active can get it,” Kerr said. Many believe that only those who have promiscuous sex can get the virus. Kerr and others said that is not true.

Kerr said the state needs to “help eliminate the stigmas … and lack of knowledge that keeps South Carolinians from making responsible health choices.”

Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Denmark, the sponsor of the bill, said that Kerr’s story is all the governor or anyone else needs to know about the bill as HPV is preventable with vaccine. He said this year a more “concerted effort” has pushed the bill, including the support of former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford.

“This is about people who suffer, who can’t have children,” Sellers said. “I don’t know why anybody would not be for this, especially a mother.”

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