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SC Lede: Trail Bites — Seven Minutes with Sen. Kamala Harris

  Leading up to the 2020 election, South Carolina Lede is keeping you up to speed on what the candidates are saying on the campaign trail in the Palmetto State with these "Trail Bites" mini-episodes.

On this edition for the week of October 24, 2019, host Gavin Jackson speaks with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) during her visit to Orangeburg, SC on October 18.

This is an edited version of our full conversation with Sen. Kamala Harris:

I'm joined by Sen. Harris on Russell Street in downtown Orangeburg, outside of Masters Hair studio. Senator Harris, welcome.

Sen. Kamala Harris Thank you. It's great to be with you. And back in Orangeburg.

Gavin Jackson Yeah, quite different than Iowa, right?

Sen. Kamala Harris It's you know, it's just good to be back.

Gavin Jackson And you were talking about moving to Iowa about a month ago. You were saying you're really doubling down. You also said you're doubling down on South Carolina. What's that looking like right now? And is that paying off that investment?

Sen. Kamala Harris Oh, absolutely. I mean, I'm here visiting with great small business owners in Orangeburg. I'm going to be doing some community events tonight. I'll be here for South Carolina State homecoming tomorrow and then worshiping here on Sunday. So I'm really glad to be back.

Gavin Jackson You've been campaigning in South Carolina for several months now. You really haven't gained too much traction in the polls we're seeing Sen. Elizabeth Warren move ahead of you too, somewhat, what does that say to you? And are you are you making enough inroads with South Carolina voters, in your opinion?

Sen. Kamala Harris Listen, this is a long campaign and we have put a lot of effort in terms of putting folks on the ground. And I'm spending time here. It is early yet, but all we are seeing it pay off in terms of the kind of enthusiasm we're seeing, the turnouts we're seeing, we're seeing so many people come out to our events. And so I'm very excited about the ground that we are gaining in South Carolina. And I think it's because South Carolinians know that there is so much at stake and they want a leader who has the capacity to unify our country around the things that we have in common. And I think people are exhausted. They're sick of this kind of voice that's about dividing people. And I know I have a unique ability to bring the country together around our common values and our common hopes and also around what we want in terms of a country that we can believe in, that that fights for working people, fights for working families, fights for our children.

Gavin Jackson And when you're you know, trying to introduce yourself to these voters sometimes people are just now tuning in, what's the number one thing you want people to know about you, Senator Harris, versus your rivals, such as Senator Warren, former Vise, President Joe Biden. What separates you from those guys?

Sen. Kamala Harris Well, there are a couple of things. One, I have the unique ability to unify our country. I have lived in many places, I've lived in many cultures and I know in my heart and my soul I am deep of faith in knowing and believing that the vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us. And I think that's the kind of leadership that people want in our country. I also have spent my entire life with one client and that's been the people--fighting for the people, all people. Understanding that regardless of your gender, your race, whoever you're registered to vote with, whoever you voted for in the last election, that you are part of a whole community of people that deserves to be seen and heard and that a harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us.

Gavin Jackson Former Vise President Joe Biden called South Carolina his firewall. He's maintained a 20 point lead. How do you view South Carolina?

Sen. Kamala Harris I love South Carolina. I think of it. I feel like I am home when I'm in South Carolina.

Gavin Jackson And when we look at President Donald Trump, we just saw that he's going be visiting Benedict College this weekend and you are going to be going there as well, what are your thoughts on him visiting his first historically black college and what do you think about him talking about criminal justice reform, in your opinion?

Sen. Kamala Harris Well, listen, I am a proud graduate of an HBCU, I attended Howard University, and it besides my family what made me who I am today as a member of the United States Senate and a serious candidate for president of United States is having been a part of the HBCU family. And, you know, it's too bad that somebody at that stage of life is just visiting and HBCU for the first time. But, you know, there is so much good that happens at our HBCUs and that's why so much of my platform is about what I can do to make sure that we bring resources to our HBCUs, that we support our HBCU students and that we understand their role in America's history past and their role in America's history present and future.

Gavin Jackson And  keeping with Donald Trump and you're talking about unifying as a unifier, people say that this impeachment process could divide the country even more so than it already is. Do you think we're already so divided that the impeachment process won't necessarily make it any worse? It's already kind of past that point of being too bad? We're already pretty much hardened when it comes to division in South Carolina, the United States.

Sen. Kamala Harris The framers of our Constitution were brilliant in knowing that they needed to design a democracy that would withstand moments where there would be abuse of power. And so they created three coequal branches of government and built into the design of our democracy checks and balances. So right now, as far as the impeachment process is concerned, it is about being true to the framers and to our Constitution and the design of our democracy, which is to say, yes, there will be checks and balances when we have a president who is trading taxpayer dollars for political favors with the head of a foreign government, that we will stand for our democracy when we have a president of the United States who has been openly obstructing justice. That we will stand for our democracy and fight for our democracy and say that we are better than this, and this is about us valuing the importance of knowing that if we are going to have a true democracy, there is a rule of law and there is a system of justice and we must fight to maintain its integrity every day.

Gavin Jackson But do you think it's going to drive the nation apart further than it already has?

Sen. Kamala Harris I think that what is going to be required, and that's why I'm running for president, is that we are definitely going to need to unify this country. And that is one of the reasons I'm running for president to unify our country around our common hopes and dreams and desires.

Gavin Jackson Bakari Sellers, one of your supporters, over the summer said that Congressman Jim Clyburn has been putting his thumb on the scale, he's kind of referencing how the congressman kind of helped Joe Biden out when they were talking about the crime bill--there was a lot of heat over that over the summer, I'm wondering, do you feel the same way that Bakari Sellers felt in certain in terms of Congressman Clyburn essentially tacitly endorsing Joe Biden without endorsing him?

Sen. Kamala Harris I'm not going to get involved in the punditry of elections, but I'll tell ya I have a great deal of respect for everyone you mentioned and the voters are going to make a decision based on who is speaking to them around their values and their hopes and dreams for their children and their belief in the integrity and strength of our nation.

Gavin Jackson Do you talk with Congressman Clyburn a lot? Have you asked him for advice on how to  approach South Carolina what kind of advice has he given you?

Sen. Kamala Harris He's given me great advice. Congressman Clyburn is a great American leader. He is a great leader from South Carolina. And he's given me great advice about what it means to know the history of South Carolina, to know its challenges. I just rolled out my plan for rural America and Congressman Clyburn and the work that he has done,  was a very guiding principle in the plan that I've rolled out. So he's been very helpful.

Gavin Jackson And just kind of wrapping up here we're outside of a hair salon, I want to ask you about hair really quick. Have you ever had a hairstyle that you regretted personally in your life?

Sen. Kamala Harris Not at the time, but looking at it 20 years later. Yes.

Gavin Jackson Can I ask you what it was?

Sen. Kamala Harris Oh, you'll have to see the pictures, they're all online.

Gavin Jackson Do you listen to podcasts? Are you a podcast fan? Do you have a favorite podcast?

Sen. Kamala Harris  Yours is my favorite. Mama didn't raise no fool!

Gavin Jackson Thank you, Sen. Harris.

Full remarks from candidates who visit South Carolina during the campaign on the SCETV YouTube page.

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Gavin Jackson graduated with a visual journalism degree from Kent State University in 2008 and has been in the news industry ever since. He has worked at newspapers in Ohio, Louisiana and most recently in South Carolina at the Florence Morning News and Charleston Post and Courier.