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2020 candidate Beto O'Rourke builds out campaign team in South Carolina

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2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke hustles to the stage in Burke High School's gym on March 23, 2019. The former Texas congressman has hired nine staffers to lead his South Carolina campaign. Wade Spees/Staff

COLUMBIA — Beto O'Rourke added a slew of new staffers to his South Carolina campaign team Monday, making him one of just a handful of candidates in the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary field to have a substantial on-the-ground presence in the critical early primary state.

Seven more operatives are joining state director Lauren Harper, a former adviser for Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, and senior adviser Tyler Jones, a veteran Democratic political consultant who took the helm of O'Rourke's South Carolina team last month. 

The new additions to O'Rourke's campaign in South Carolina are:

  • Deputy state director Sean Butler, a Furman University graduate who has worked on campaigns in Indiana, New York, New Hampshire and Iowa.
  • Communications director Robyn Patterson, who worked for U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., and on Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.
  • Organizing director Austin Lyle, who most recently held the same role for the Montana Democratic Party.
  • Director of scheduling and advance John Moffett, who was vice president of political affairs at Jones' firm, Speak Strategic.
  • Political director Brian Butler, who was a South Carolina lobbyist and deputy campaign manager for state Sen. Mia McLeod, D-Columbia, in 2016.
  • Deputy political director Devon Owens, who is executive director of the S.C. Legislative Black Caucus.
  • Operations director Phil Dudley, who was campaign manager for South Carolina congressional candidate Mary Geren in 2018.

“Beto is committed to winning the First in the South primary, and he’s assembled an experienced team that will help him compete in every corner of the state,” Harper said. “We’re excited to build on the energy, optimism and hope that Beto has inspired in so many communities during his previous visits to the Palmetto State.”  

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In addition, University of South Carolina sophomore Jacob Gamble will lead a "South Carolina Students for Beto" group. While in high school, Gamble co-founded Lowcountry Students for Political Action, an organization of progressive students pushing for gun control measures and increased youth involvement in politics.

The new hires come with valuable connections to several prominent South Carolina Democrats as O'Rourke looks to find his footing in the Palmetto State.

Early polls in South Carolina have shown former Vice President Joe Biden holding a commanding lead among likely Democratic primary voters. Despite drawing sizable crowds, O'Rourke is one of many contenders struggling to rise above the low single-digits so far.

The former Texas congressman has made two busy swings through South Carolina, holding a total of 15 events across the state. He is scheduled to participate in a Black Economic Alliance presidential candidate forum in Charleston next month.

Of the nearly two dozen candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president, the few who have invested early in South Carolina campaign staffers include Biden and U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.

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