Crowd hails pick of Mandy Powers Norrell for Lt. Gov.
Hope, as the saying goes, springs eternal.
After 15 years in the political wilderness, state Democrats are feeling positive about their chances of re-taking the governor’s mansion in 2018.
At least that was the vibe Friday afternoon, when Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. James Smith of Columbia came to town to officially announce that Lancaster’s Mandy Powers Norrell would be his running mate as lieutenant governor.
“She’s just perfect; there couldn’t be a better fit,” said a Smith campaign volunteer from Columbia who identified herself only as “Fannie.”
Numerous others in the crowd who were interviewed echoed parallel sentiments.
Inspired by Smith’s candidacy, those surveyed said Norrell was expected to bring an extra spark to the campaign as it pushes ahead to the June 12 Democratic primary and hopefully, they said, into the November general election.
“This feels so good,” said a beaming Norrell.
“And it also feels kind of heavy, because I look at you and don’t feel I deserve this much love. But I’m going to take it, and keep on taking it, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Norrell told the partisan crowd.
Smith said there was never any other choice to fill his ticket outside Norrell, who has represented Lancaster in District 44 in the S.C. House since 2013.
Until this year, the state’s lieutenant governor was elected independently of the governor.
A 2012 constitutional amendment, however, now requires the governor and lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket, beginning with the November 2018 general election.
Despite the limited role the lieutenant governor plays under the state constitution, Smith said he sees Norrell playing a crucial part not only in the campaign, but also in serving the agenda of the governor’s office should the pair be elected.
“She’s the absolute right choice,” Smith said after the announcement, which drew several dozen supporters from across South Carolina to the historic Springs House on Gay Street.
Both are friends and compatriots in the General Assembly and have been for years.
Perhaps, more important to Smith’s campaign, Norrell thrives in a district that went overwhelmingly for President Trump in 2016 by nearly 26 points.
Norrell is seeking a third straight term without opposition. That, Smith said, is testament to her ability to appeal across partisan lines.
Smith said both he and Norrell have been successful as staunch Democrats who can work with members of other political parties. That spirit of bipartisanship should also bode well for the campaign, he said.
During the event, much was made of Norrell’s upbringing – the only child of textile workers who worked her way through school, became a successful bankruptcy lawyer and eventually a state legislator, whose roots have made her sensitive to the plight of so many South Carolinians who still struggle from paycheck to paycheck.
“Honestly, what both of us have seen is that broad spectrum of Republicans, Democrats and independents, who all have a shared frustration about what’s happening in Columbia and are looking to this campaign to deliver the answer,” Smith said.
“I have found a woman who has the experience and strength of character we need,” he said. “A woman who shares our core values. A woman who is ready to serve and lead South Carolina.”
In addition to Smith and Norrell, many of her closest friends from the state legislature were on hand to tout her, including Reps. John King of Rock Hill and Terry Alexander of Florence. Also on hand were former 5th District Congressman John Spratt, and the state’s top Democrat, 6th District Congressman James Clyburn.
Like Smith, Clyburn said he could not imagine a better pick than Norrell.
“From day one,” Clyburn said, Norrell was his first choice. “When (Smith) asked me, I said there’s lots of people, but (she) would be my first choice.”