U.S. Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, campaigned for former President Donald Trump at Columbia Earlewood Park Community Center on Saturday.  (Photo by Andy Burns/Carolina News and Reporter)

About 700,000 voters came out for South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary.

What brought them out?

Their candidate, of course.

But they also talked to reporters about border control, the economy, former President Donald Trump’s legal status, concerns over his and President Joe Biden’s ages and mental capacities and the strength of former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s campaign.

Some voters saw the primary as having high stakes because of the chances of returning Trump to office – or electing someone brand new but still familiar to South Carolinians.

Here’s what voters across Richland and Lexington counties had to say.

Immigration and Border Control

“I think immigration should be controlled, you know?” said voter Sid Blebinns, 38, who voted at Crayton Middle School in Richland County. “Should we not just let everyone know people work hard to try to get their green cards to come over? And you know, they’re the ones that are getting screwed over.” 

Jordan Johnson, 35, who voted at Richland County Polo Road Park, also has strong feelings about tightening the border.

“The border crisis, it’s pretty bad,” Johnson said. “I feel like they’re just pouring over the border without any vetting. And I’m all about immigration. Everybody should be able to come here. But we have to do it the right way.”

Other voters want tighter border control to eliminate the amount of drugs and criminals who might enter.


Bruce Rollins, 36, voted for Trump on Saturday – and in previous elections, he said – at Red Bank Elementary School in Lexington County. 

“I think the policies he put in place were going in the right direction to help small businesses and American people,” Rollins said.

Independent voter Sam Wayt cast his ballot at Mount Horeb Church, also  in Lexington County. He thinks national spending should be more focused.

“I think our top issue is just that we have so much polarization in our country, and also we spend way too much money,” Wayt said. “We need to get our spending under control. And I think we just need to quit being so against each other.”

Amanda Harrelson, who cast her ballot at in Lexington County’s Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church, said she felt comfortable voting for Trump because of what he already accomplished.

“We’ve seen what the country looks like under Trump,” she said. “I’m comfortable, you know, where we were financially, where we were in foreign policy. For me, those are my two biggest concerns.”

Foreign Policy

“I don’t agree with Nikki Haley’s foreign policy perspective,” said Trump voter Dennis Cox, 31, who voted at Mount Horeb Church. “I feel like it’s too hawkish, and I’d rather not be at war with every foreign country.”

On the other hand, Cindy Lucas, 54, voted at Kilbourne Park Baptist and identified herself as a Democrat or Independent. She said Haley is better at relating to global partners than other candidates, which helped her decide to vote for her. 

Harrelson said although Trump’s foreign policies are more “out there,” they have helped the country.

“When I’m looking at the two of them, for me, Trump’s got that sort of little bit of crazy, foreign-policy wise,” Harrelson said. “I think that helped us.” 

Haley voter Elanor Boyd, who cast her ballot at Columbia’s Dreher High School, said she wanted to give Haley an opportunity because of how well she did while serving in the United Nations. 

“I feel like she handled some tough situations very well as governor, and seemed to do a really good job, too, when she was serving in the UN,” she said. “So I’d just like to give her an opportunity.”

Trump’s Legal Status 

For some voters, Trump’s legal status was a problem.

Jackie Richards, 60, who said she usually votes Republican, cast her ballot at Satchel Ford Elementary in Richland County. She said legal issues that have been proven true about Trump should be taken into consideration when people vote. 

“What concerns me is why hasn’t he been taken out earlier? Like, why are we even letting him run?” Richards said.

Judy Urso, 79, who voted at Irmo High School, thinks part of Trump’s campaign goals are to clear his record rather than advance the country.

“I’m concerned that Trump is just out for his own, to clear … his name for all the things that he’s been accused of,” Urso said. “He’s not really interested in this country, and I think (Haley) is.”

But other voters think he is being criticized too much. 

Alberto Signs, 51, voted for Trump at Kilbourne Park Baptist Church in Richland County. He said Trump’s political opponents are using the justice system to try and attack him.

Lauren Gasser, 39, believes personal mistakes shouldn’t be a part of why or why not a candidate receives a vote.

“I think everybody has made mistakes,” said Gasser, who voted for Trump at Blythewood Middle School. “And so I think everyone’s dirty laundry is coming out. And so I think that shouldn’t play a part in the voting or in the election for anybody.” 

Julie Hall, said she is an Independent voter who previously voted for Trump.

“Right now I feel like all races are focused on the candidates themselves and more of a battle of nitpicking between the candidates,” said Hall, who voted at Lexington County’s Irmo High School. “And I think right now we just need to get back to focusing on all issues.”

Age, Mental Capacity Concerns

A hot topic was the ages and mental capacities of both Trump and Biden. 

The issue shouldn’t be age as much as cognitive function, said Matthew Cunningham, 47, voted at Blythewood Park.

“Age isn’t everything,” he said. “I know people that are 90 and function well and people that are 72 and don’t. But function is a key thing. So if people can’t complete sentences, that’s tough. Trump seems to be still cognitive.”

Lucas said she’s worried about how old both Trump and Biden are.

“I’m here to keep Trump from being in office regardless,” Lucas said.

Joe Bernard, 63, who voted at Crayton Middle School, said Biden’s age and ability are a concern.

“With Biden, I think it’s definitely cognitive ability,” he said. “That is a concern.”

Haley’s Campaign Losing Strength  

Some voters voted for Haley for governor but aren’t sure how well she would do as president. 

Barb McCraw, 57, who cast her vote at Red Bank Elementary School, doesn’t think Haley is the right choice.

“I just don’t trust her,” McCraw said. “I think she’s just representing the other side of the coin of the Democrats. I think she’s pretty much bought out, too.”

Other voters see Haley as simply an alternative to Trump. 

“The only reason they’re backing her is that they don’t want Trump, ” Glenn Miller, a poll technician, said of other voters. “That’s the only reason they’re backing her. They’re not backing her because she does what they want.”

While some Republicans think Haley’s policies aren’t as conservative as they would like, others don’t see her getting far due to her lack of popularity in her home state.

“I think she’s good, but realistically speaking, she doesn’t have the popularity that Trump has,” Signs said. “Maybe now’s not her time. Maybe one day.”


Carolina News and Reporter writers Stephen Enright, Eva Flowe, Amanda Petty, Alexandra Tudor and Shamariah Vanderhorst contributed to this report.

Supporters of former President Donald Trump gather at the State Fairground on Columbia on Saturday. (Photo by Dominic Caraballo/Carolina News and Reporter)

Voting was steady at Blythewood Park in Richland County on Saturday. (Photo by Amanda Petty/Carolina News and Reporter)