Vice President Joe Biden made a public push for York County voters to “trust” Fran Person at a series of events in the Carolinas on Monday.
Person, who’s running against Republican incumbent Rep. Mick Mulvaney for South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District seat, received plenty of praise from Biden at a private event in Fort Mill’s White Homestead and a public stop-in at Rock Hill’s Five & Dine restaurant on East Main Street.
Biden said Person, a Tega Cay Democrat, isn’t afraid to cooperate with both sides of the aisle to get things done.
“People trust him,” said the vice president. “All the people he knows in South Carolina and in Washington, they know that he can be trusted. They might not always agree with him, but (they can) trust him.”
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Biden closed a full day of campaigning with a meet-and-greet at the Five & Dine, where he took a milkshake to-go and met a member of the Friendship Nine. Biden told W.T. “Dub” Massey that the Friendship Nine was “inspirational” for its strategy of “Jail, No Bail” to fight against racial segregation.
In 1961, the group of African-American men received national attention by staging a sit-in at a segregated McCrory’s lunch counter in Rock Hill. The space has since been transformed into the modern-day Five & Dine, but the original lunch counter seats from the 1960s remain.
Biden surprised Massey at his own chair, as Massey drew a crowd of reporters. Massey said he was unaware that he would get a chance to meet the vice president at what was billed as a lunch meeting with Person.
“His whole persona changed with the Friendship Nine,” said Massey. “With the questions he asked, all pertinent to what happened, there’s nothing we can do but celebrate that.”
Biden landed at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport Monday morning and briefly met with volunteers at a campaign office for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Charlotte. He later spoke on education and the middle class at Central Piedmont Community College before entertaining donors at Person’s private event in Fort Mill.
Person, who was a University of South Carolina football player, worked as Biden’s driver and aide for eight years after graduating from USC in 2006. He traveled to 49 countries with Biden, including Russia, China, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
Biden said he feels Person – whom he called “Franny” – holds the qualities necessary to represent the 5th District.
“The truth is, everyone knows the system’s not working,” said Biden to a large group of reporters. “But there’s a lot of good guys left who don’t want to cooperate because they get threatened. It used to be, people talked to everyone. But (Person’s) not intimidated.”
Person is trying to unseat Mulvaney, the three-term Indian Land Republican who won his seat in 2010, defeating longtime U.S. Rep. John Spratt, a York Democrat. The 5th District covers the north-central part of South Carolina, including York, Chester and Lancaster counties.
Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols greeted the vice president and Person on Monday, saying the presence of national figures solidifies the city as an important spot for political action. Secret Service personnel flocked along both sides of the busy downtown area, while fascinated onlookers crowded for a peek at Biden.
“I told him that I appreciate his service to the country,” said Echols. “I’m hopeful that Fran’s going to have a great opportunity for the 5th District.”
Clinton’s health scare
Biden said Clinton’s staff acknowledged that they “screwed up” by not releasing earlier that the Democratic presidential candidate had been diagnosed with pneumonia.
Clinton left a 9/11 memorial service early Sunday in New York and appeared faint. Her doctor later issued a statement saying she had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday and had become dehydrated at the event.
Biden said the staff should have made the information public sooner.
“I’ve talked to the campaign and they told me they’ll be putting out more information,” said Biden. “The staff acknowledged they screwed up and should have said something on Friday.”