O'Rourke seeks end of voter ID laws that he calls 'racist'

Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke gestures during a campaign stop at Keene State College in Keene, N.H., Tuesday, March 19, 2019. O'Rourke announced last week that he'll seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is making his first campaign trip to South Carolina this weekend, beelining to this early primary state at the same time as two other presidential contenders try to build support here.

The Texas Democrat, who announced his presidential bid last week, will stop in four cities during his two-day swing through the Palmetto State.

The lineup includes appearances in Rock Hill, Columbia, Orangeburg and Charleston, where he will appear at Burke High School Saturday morning. 

Boyd Brown, a former Democratic state lawmaker who is the national adviser of the Draft Beto initiative, said this stage of the campaign will resemble more of a listening tour than a talk circuit.

"He's not speaking at these audiences. Everywhere he’s speaking, he’s having conversations," Brown said.

O'Rourke lost his 2018 U.S. Senate race to Republican Ted Cruz by 3 percentage points. In the process, the former El Paso congressman became a social media sensation after a viral video of him explaining why he supports professional athletes for taking a knee during the national anthem.

O'Rourke's Friday morning starts in Rock Hill, where he will visit the site where 10 black students were arrested for staging a sit-in protest at a segregated lunch counter. The "Friendship 9," who refused to pay their fines, became the first civil rights sit-in protesters in the nation to serve jail time, and they pioneered the "Jail No Bail" strategy later adopted as a model for the Freedom Rides of 1961.

O'Rourke then will travel to Columbia where he will meet with local leaders. He is scheduled to speak at a 12:30 p.m. rally at the Russell House on the University of South Carolina campus. The rally will be hosted by the College Democrats of USC.

After a speaking engagement at S.C. State University at 3 p.m., O'Rourke will conclude his Friday at Tradesman Brewing Co. in Charleston.

At 9:25 a.m. Saturday, O'Rourke is scheduled to participate in a town hall hosted by state Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, at Burke High School.

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O'Rourke isn't the only presidential candidate angling for votes this weekend in the Palmetto State.

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, plans stops in Greenville, Columbia and Rock Hill Saturday.

Meanwhile, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker returns to South Carolina on Saturday, marking the third time he's come to the state since announcing his candidacy.

Like O'Rourke and Buttigieg, Booker will spend time in Rock Hill.

According to Booker's campaign, the senator will participate in a "Conversation with Cory" at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Freedom Temple Ministries Gym in Rock Hill. Booker will then participate in a 3:30 p.m. community forum on economic inequality in Columbia.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.