*Since the birth of this nation, no Black woman has ever served as governor in the United States. But South Carolina Democratic state Sen. Mia McLeod believes she will be the first, despite the fact that Democrats haven’t been elected to a statewide office there in 15 years.
“I want to be the person that is running not because I’m a woman, and not because I’m Black, but because I am so connected to and so much like the people that I represent,” McLeod, a Columbia-area lawmaker, told The Associated Press ahead of her official 2022 campaign launch on Thursday (Jun 3). “It’s a tremendous responsibility, but it’s one that I’m excited about.”
McLeod, 52, hails from Bennettsville, a rural hamlet about 100 miles northeast of the state capital, and seat of Marlboro County, often home to one of the state’s highest unemployment rates. She said that education and health care are her top campaign concerns, noting the area’s crumbling schools and lack of a hospital since 2015.
According to University of South Carolina professor Bobby Donaldson, a scholar of Southern history and African American culture, McLeod is the first Black woman to seek South Carolina’s top job. If elected, she would be only its second female governor. She would also be the first-ever Black governor in the state whose constitution was reconfigured during the Jim Crow era, weakening the office in the event that a Black person were ever elected to it.
In the Senate, McLeod has made recent waves.
• In spring 2020, as lawmakers returned to Columbia following an abrupt, pandemic-related halt, McLeod stayed away, citing concerns related to her battle with sickle cell anemia and calling Republican leaders’ decision to hold in-person session “tone-deaf” and “deadly” as coronavirus cases rose.
• During a contentious debate over this year’s “heartbeat bill,” which bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, McLeod in January railed against Republicans for opposing exceptions for rape victims, revealing that she had been the victim of sexual assault. The measure became law but is stalled in litigation.
Sen. Mcleod will run against two Democrats who have announced gubernatorial bids so far: activist Gary Votour and Joe Cunningham, who in 2018 flipped his congressional district from red to blue for the first time in decades, before losing reelection to Republican Nancy Mace last year.
Below is Sen. McLeod giving the Democratic response to SC Gov. Henry McMaster’s 2021 State of the State address in January.