Hillary Clinton’s South Carolina campaign to attract young black voters brought out some star power Monday as actor Sean Patrick Thomas visited students at Clinton College in Rock Hill.
Thomas – a classically trained actor best known for his roles in movies such as the “Barbershop” series and “Save the Last Dance,” as well as television roles – told students at the historical black college that Clinton will fight for both the country and for issues important to black people.
About 50 students at the small college were at the late morning presentation, which is part of Clinton’s “Get Out the Vote” strategy of using actors such as Thomas, Angela Bassett and Vivica Fox to reach younger voters at South Carolina’s historical black colleges.
“Hillary Clinton is a fighter – she’s tough,” Thomas, 45, told the crowd in espousing Clinton’s experience as a U.S. senator and secretary of state. “Who other than Hillary Clinton has that type of experience? Nobody.”
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South Carolina’s Feb. 27 Democratic primary is the first in the South and the first to include a sizable black voting block. Clinton leads Bernie Sanders in all South Carolina polls and has name recognition from running in a losing effort against Barack Obama in South Carolina in 2008, as well as her eight years as first lady.
Black voters make up about half of Democratic primary voters in South Carolina. Clinton lost to Obama in 2008 by a 2 to 1 margin.
Thomas, who supported Obama over Clinton in 2008, said he was asked by another actor to get involved in campaigning for Hillary Clinton and agreed, saying that she is the best candidate for president in either party. Clinton has a long record of fighting for the rights of black people, he said, and supporting historical black colleges.
Thomas called this election “a pivotal time,” saying only Clinton would continue progress that started under Obama. Voting is a way a young people can make a statement about the country they want to inherit, he said.
Students asked several questions about Clinton, but also were a bit star-struck. They asked Thomas about his working with rapper/actor/producer Ice Cube and others in movies. But this trip was about getting voters to turn out Feb. 27. Many of Clinton College’s students, who will be voting for the first time, were impressed that Thomas would make the trip to visit with them personally and make an appeal for Clinton.
“I wasn’t going to vote, but he made it clear why it is important to vote,” said freshman Cheyenne Whaley. “What he said about Hillary Clinton wanting to better our communities – especially for blacks – I’m going to vote for her.”
Student Jamel Jones, who asked several questions about Clinton’s experience and commitment to black people, said the Clinton method of using stars to reach young people is a smart move. The message apparently hit its mark with him.
“I didn’t know before today who I was going to vote for,” Jones said, “but it’s Hillary Clinton.”
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065