SC Democrats elect Clyburn-backed Christale Spain, 1st Black woman to lead state party

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South Carolina Democrats on Saturday elected Christale Spain to lead the state party, charging her with turning around past election loss cycles and ensuring the state doesn’t lose its status as the first Democratic presidential primary after 2024.

Spain, who formerly worked as the party’s executive director, becomes the first Black woman to chair the S.C. Democratic Party.

“Christale Spain has dedicated her life and energies to electing Democrats,” U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, who poured $10,000 into Spain’s campaign, said Saturday. “She has proven to be successful. She deserves a promotion.”

Two other candidates challenged Spain for Chair: Activist Catherine Fleming Bruce and Brandon Upson, a former party executive and chair of its Black caucus.

Spain and Upson were seen as the the front runners in the race, but minutes into Saturday’s election it was clear Spain had the votes, leaving Upson to concede early.

The race competitive was competitive after Chair Trav Robertson opted not seek another term as the party’s leader.

Spain in 2022 led a communications and national organizing program for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that won 12 out of 13 competitive U.S. House races, three of which were in North Carolina.

Spain also had the backing of the party’s biggest names, including Robertson, Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison and Jim Hodges, South Carolina’s last Democratic governor.

Upson, meanwhile, had the backing of Democratic state Reps. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, John King, Russell Ott, Lonnie Hosey and Roger Kirby as he made inroads in rural counties. And he had the backing of former Democratic state Reps. Wendy Brawley, Shedron Wiliams and Chardale Murray, who all lost their seats in the 2022 elections.

Spain’s victory gives her control over the 2024 Democratic presidential primary, which will kick off the nominating process.

Running a smooth primary will be key if Democrats want to keep the slot in 2028, which is expected to be more competitive.

The new chair also will be charged with trying to reverse the party’s fortunes at the ballot box, which includes losing five House and Senate seats in 2020 and eight House seats in 2022.

Spain said she is prepared to lead the party ahead of the primary and has “hands-on experience to hit the ground running on Day One.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.