Democrat Bakari Sellers received Wednesday in Charleston what is likely one of the most important endorsements he will pick-up along the campaign trail.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley endorsed Sellers, while citing Sellers’ “amazingly, successful career” at such a young age. Riley said he was proud of Sellers, whose leadership will help put South Carolina “on that upward track of momentum of excellence.”
“He (Sellers) reaches across the aisle,” said Riley. “He has Republicans and Democrats who work with him, who admire his vision and leadership. Bakari is looking to the future.”
“One of my goals on the campaign trail is to make South Carolina the No. 1 place for retirees and the No. 1 place for quality of life for our seniors,” Sellers said. “Charleston has done an amazing job at that.”
Riley’s endorsement is critical to Sellers’ campaign because Riley has a reputation for being very thoughtful when making endorsements, said Kendra Stewart, a political science professor at the College of Charleston.
“When the mayor speaks, people pay attention in this town,” Stewart said. “The mayor has the majority of support of the people in Charleston. He attracts the independents as well as the more moderate Republicans and that’s exactly what Bakari Sellers needs if he’s going to win.”
If elected, Sellers’ would make history by becoming the youngest lieutenant governor and the first Democrat elected to a statewide office since 2006. His term in the House of Representatives ends this year.
Sellers is facing off against Henry McMaster, who was one of several GOP primary challengers Gov. Nikki Haley defeated in 2010. McMaster has name recognition in the state, after he was elected as Attorney General in 2002 and served until 2011. He also chaired the state Republican Party for nine years.
The problem with this race, however, is that it’s a constant fight to get the public’s attention, Stewart said. Plus, most voters are unclear on what the lieutenant governor does, aside from stepping in to become governor, if needed. And in a heavily Republican state, carrying Charleston is vital if Sellers wants to win, she added.
“His chance in this election might be a little better because (Vincent) Sheheen is pretty popular statewide,” said Stewart of Sellers. “I think he has a shot. It might be a long shot, but he’s has one.”