South Carolina has made history by electing its first Black woman to lead its Democratic Party.
Christale Spain, a longtime party operative, was elected Saturday as the chair of South Carolina‘s Democratic Party, officially making her the first African American woman to serve in the position.
This is a momentous occasion for the state and the Democratic Party, as South Carolina is now the leadoff presidential voting state in 2024. With Spain‘s election, coupled with the party‘s recent revamp of its primary schedule, four of the five states in which Democrats will vote first next year — Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina — now have Black women chairing their state parties.
The move was a priority for President Joe Biden, who recently launched his reelection campaign and pushed to move South Carolina — a state where he won big in 2020 — to the top of the nominating calendar.
“I now know from all the experience, all of the volunteering, all of the jobs that I’ve held, the importance of this role, who is setting the stage, who is implementing the strategy, so that we can win,” Spain told reporters after her victory.
Black women are prime drivers of the Democratic electorate, especially in South Carolina. Spain takes over from Trav Robertson, who has led the party since 2017 and announced earlier this year he wouldn’t seek another term.
Spain had support from a large number of party leaders, such as Rep. Jim Clyburn, for whom Spain previously worked doing constituency service and outreach in his district office. She also sported the endorsement of former party leaders such as Robertson and Jaime Harrison, who preceded Robertson as state chair and currently leads the Democratic National Committee.
In one comment, Harrison stated that Spain “has the experience, judgment, and strategic vision to get South Carolina Democrats back on the winning track, and I know she will be an excellent chair.”
However, despite the historic win, South Carolina Democrats have struggled to notch electoral wins at many levels of office. They have not won a statewide election since 2006, and are currently only in possession of one of the state‘s seven House seats. The party last won a Senate race in 1998, and Jimmy Carter was the last Democrat to carry the state in a presidential election.
As the nation‘s attention turns to South Carolina for the 2024 cycle, Spain has pledged to implement “year–round voter engagement“ and mobilization efforts in the hopes of garnering more statewide wins for the party.
It remains to be seen whether Spain‘s election will have a positive impact on the party‘s fortunes, but her win is certainly a major milestone in South Carolina‘s political history.