HomeTop StoriesHow Clyburn, who ran for 17th term, shaped SC politics and life...

How Clyburn, who ran for 17th term, shaped SC politics and life in a big way

It’s no secret that Congressman James Clyburn has had a tremendous impact on South Carolina and broader American Democratic politics over the years. Political leaders across the aisle who have worked with and know the 83-year-old congressman can easily portray why the Palmetto State has benefited immensely from the work he has done.

Democratic leaders said that is unlikely to change because of his recent departure from a leadership role in the House of Representatives. Clyburn is an American political figurehead and that will not change.

“Even if he leaves the role, he’s still Jim Clyburn,” said SC political operative Jalen Elrod. “He has built such prominent political capital across the country that he doesn’t need an official title to expand that political capital.”

During a press conference Monday kicking off his re-election to Congress, a group of supporters and community members packed into the Waverly-Clyburn Building Auditorium in Columbia, where the congressman reviewed his campaign points and the work he’s most passionate about as a congressman. had been proud of. politician.

From community-funded projects to infrastructure investments, Clyburn spoke with him and the president Joe Biden‘s efforts for the Democratic party and the greater good of South Carolina.

His achievements have much more to do with his time as a congressman than just as an assistant Democratic leader, Clyburn said in an interview with The State. Although his leadership position had little to do with his district, the most impactful contribution he is most proud of is the Lake Marion Water Agency, founded in 1995.

“We managed to make it happen, despite a lot of opposition. There are people who to this day won’t talk to me because to them it was a waste of public money,” Clyburn said in an interview. “We have pumped $129 million into that regional water agency to provide clean drinking water to the children in the schools along that corridor to provide water for industrial development.”

Politicos in the State emphasized that while he achieved tangible successes as a politician, he also brought the state into the national political spotlight.

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“South Carolina wouldn’t have been ‘First in the Nation’ without Jim Clyburn,” Elrod said. “As South Carolina Democrats, our national relevance begins and ends with Jim Clyburn. That probably won’t change because he has left this position in the House of Representatives, but it will certainly change once he retires from Congress.”

“As far as the state of South Carolina is concerned, he will certainly go down in history as one of the greatest statesmen the state has ever had,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison. “Jim Clyburn has always been able to get results, regardless of which party is in control.”

Elrod said most people in Clyburn’s district probably don’t even know he was a majority candidate or led the House of Representatives because his political capital is not his position. Clyburn is one of the oldest Democrats in the country.

“The relevance of Democrats in South Carolina begins and ends with Jim Clyburn,” Elrod said. “If he doesn’t run in ’26, there’s a good chance South Carolina won’t be the ‘First in the Nation’ primary in 2028.”

South Carolina would have a very different landscape without Clyburn, including fewer roads, federally funded construction projects and buildings, and education funding, said Sen. Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland. Clyburn passed bills and ensured South Carolina was fully funded, he said.

Harpootlian mentioned Clyburn’s ability to engage and persuade people over the years. His political influence is evident, especially in the recent elections.

“He was a very important part of the ’08 primaries,” Harpootlian said. “Of course we know that in 2020, in my opinion, he was the factor that got his support to Joe Biden and made him president of the United States.”

Harrison said the impact of Clyburn’s endorsement shows he is not a show horse, but a workhorse.

“He has really been a great asset to so many people in politics,” Harrison said.

His passion to get Biden reelected is proving true today.

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“I heard he was resigning because he wants to be in a position to be a better ally and partner alongside President Biden in saving democracy,” said Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright. “But he also wanted to be in a position where he could influence government policy in a different way.”

Clyburn said this was true.

“There are forces at work in this country today that are violating everything this country stands for,” Clyburn said. “I am convinced that if Joe Biden had not won that election, we would not be recognizing this country right now, and if Joe Biden is not re-elected, I am convinced that we will never have free elections in this country again. . And so I spent hours working with Joe Biden and his staff on what we’re going to do in this country to make sure he wins this election, and I didn’t want to have to go to meetings in Washington.”

When he fights for issues, it’s not just for the Democratic party, Seawright said. It’s for the greater good, not for a greater good.

Gov. Henry McMaster said Clyburn, wherever he is, whether in leadership or not, will have a powerful voice. McMaster said he had the privilege of working with him over the years, even when McMaster was attorney general. He emphasized that working with Clyburn on issues across the aisle was “the South Carolina way.”

“He is a strong personality who is deeply committed to the state,” McMaster said. “I’m confident that we’ll rely on him, and I know he’ll rely on us, and I don’t expect his influence to diminish much, if at all.”

Seawright said Clyburn will still have a seat at the “influence table,” even without his role in House leadership.

“Jim Clyburn may be, or will go down in history as the most consistent leader, one of the most consistent leaders to ever serve this country, and certainly one of the most consistent elected officials to ever serve in the state of South Carolina. His political network and his political net worth speak for themselves.”

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Clyburn said he doesn’t expect his role to look completely different.

“I just give up Washington stuff. That’s it, going to meetings sitting around a table and benefiting from your experiences,” Clyburn said. “I still go to those meetings and sit around the table and benefit from my experiences. I’m just not obliged to do that.”

However, some politicians emphasized that South Carolina wouldn’t necessarily look too different, but some change could occur.

“It’s going to be hard, it’s even harder now for South Carolina,” said Bakari Sellers, former South Carolina state representative. “But he is a hero and an icon and no one will be able to replace him.”

Clyburn will still be great at what he does, Sellers emphasized, but it will be different, and the person who follows him will have “big shoes to fill,” he added.

“I think he has shown that he is a political king and queen,” Seawright said. “You can win with him, and you can certainly lose without him. You won’t find many people who disagree about the respect that Jim Clyburn has commanded, not just political respect, but personal respect and professional respect, and I think that means something.

While everyone agreed that his influence is stronger than a title, no one, including Clyburn himself, could answer what 2026 would look like and whether Clyburn would decide to run for Congress again.

“I wouldn’t get too far over my skis. I have no idea,” Clyburn said of running in 2026. “I feel great. I wake up every morning and try to figure out what I can do today to make this country better. I told my daughters that I want on my gravestone: ‘He did his best to make the greatness of the country accessible and affordable to all its citizens.’ I wake up every day and try to figure out what I can do to make that happen. How long will I wake up if I do that? Don’t know. I look at it election by election.”

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