Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer poses with supporters during a campaign event in Winnsboro, South Carolina.
By MARIA JUTTON and LANDON STAMPER
WINNSBORO, S.C. −Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer called for a $22 hourly minimum wage and term limits for House members at a campaign rally Sunday afternoon that drew about 150 enthusiastic supporters.
The event featured live music, free food and games. Steyer spoke for about 15 minutes to the crowd, which reacted strongly when the candidate discussed President Trump and the U.S. economy.
“President Trump says unemployment is low,” Steyer said. “He’s right, but you can’t live on $7.25 an hour.”
Steyer said his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $22 an hour would be funded by taxing the wealthy. Most other Democratic presidential candidates support a $15 hourly minimum wage.
Joseph Von Nessen, a research economist at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, said that the effects of a larger increase in the minimum wage could vary.
“It really depends on the sector in terms of how it’s likely to have any type of disruptive effect on the workforce and the hiring practices of businesses,” Von Nessen said.
But small businesses in South Carolina have some concerns about significant wage increases, saying that this could harm their operations. Bryan Miller, general manager of Piecewise Coffee Company in Cayce, said that an increase in the minimum wage could strain his business.
“It looks really nice on paper, but I don’t know how it would be feasible for small businesses to be able to supply their employees with a $22-an-hour paycheck,” Miller said.
Steyer moved on by stating that he has a six-word argument to support 12-year term limits for every congressperson and senator.
“Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz,” Steyer said. “Out, out, out!”
Steyer also wants to give $125 billion to historically black colleges and universities, which he said are “starved for money.” This funding is part of Steyer’s plan to make reparations to the African American community for institutionalized racism.
“People need to know the moral leadership that the African American community has brought to this country for generations and centuries,” Steyer said. “They need to know the contribution, and then we talk about repairing the damage and the injustice.”
Winnsboro resident Teshawnda Broom and her son Kadell Broom attended the event to hear Steyer address educational and health reform. Teshawnda Broom wants education to be made more affordable as her son finishes high school and looks toward college.
“We wanted to hear what Tom Steyer has to say that’s going to impact Kadell’s future as well as mine,” Teshawnda Broom said.
Harry Rodgers, a Winnsboro resident, first became interested in Steyer’s campaign because of Steyer’s grassroots involvement. Rodgers hopes a Steyer presidency would help Fairfield County recover from a failed nuclear reactor project that has dominated headlines and state politics for more than two years.
In 2017, Santee Cooper and S.C. Electric & Gas abandoned construction of two nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station near Jenkinsville at a cost of $9 billion. In the wake of the expansion debacle, Dominion Energy purchased S.C. E&G and continues to operate the the V.C. Summer nuclear plant. The plant was temporarily closed in November after a small leak in a pipe was detected, releasing a small amount of radioactive water.
“Before he went into politics he was about empowering communities to tackle problems in their own areas,” Rodgers said. “I’m glad that this is one of the places Tom Steyer has chosen to come to, and I’m interested in hearing what he says about communities that have been damaged by bad decision making.”
After receiving 0.3% of Democratic votes in last week’s Iowa caucuses, Steyer hopes his message will resonate as voters prepare for the Feb. 29 Democratic presidential primary. South Carolina has a large African American population and polls suggest most are committed to supporting former Vice President Joe Biden.
Steyer continued campaigning Monday afternoon in Rock Hill with an event at Winthrop University and a town hall at Freedom Temple Ministries.
Two women wait for Steyer’s campaign event to begin on Sunday afternoon.
Many wait in line after Steyer’s speech to get an autograph and take pictures with the presidential hopeful.
A supporter holds a campaign sign while Steyer speaks to the crowd in downtown Winnsboro, South Carolina.
Steyer signs an autograph for a supporter during a meet-and-greet after his speech.