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Joe Biden gains SC endorsements from former Kamala Harris co-chairs

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Two Democratic women who helped lead Kamala Harris' presidential campaign in South Carolina are now endorsing Joe Biden in the state's first-in-the-South presidential primary.

Marguerite Willis and Melissa Watson told The Post and Courier on Monday they plan to support the former vice president because they see him as the candidate who can beat President Donald Trump, prioritize the needs of teachers and lead on foreign policy.

Willis, a former gubernatorial candidate and Florence attorney, used a metaphor to explain her decision and compared the nation to being like a house ablaze.

"If my house is on fire, I don't need someone with a plan or someone to redesign my house," Willis said, in a swipe she confirmed was directed at candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others proposing major plans and visions.

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Presidential candidate Kamala Harris talks with Marguerite Willis at the Charleston County Democratic Party Blue Jamboree on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, at The Bend in North Charleston. File/Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

"Right now, I need a fireman with a hose — someone who is going to come in and put out this fire, and get us to a point where we can take a breath, assess the damage done and begin to rebuild."

Watson, the former Berkeley County Democratic Party chairwoman who recently stepped down to launch a congressional run in South Carolina's 7th Congressional District, said she personally met with almost all of the Democratic presidential candidates.

She said Biden's response to the Jan. 3 airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani impressed her.

"Foreign policy was not always something that was at the top of my list, but after that it was," she said. "I kept thinking who is the best person to handle a country in crisis? Who can comfort a nation and who can lead it?"

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Biden has been picking up endorsements from Harris backers since the California senator dropped out of the race in mid-December. Watson and Willis were among six co-chairs on Harris' South Carolina campaign.

State Sen. Darrell Jackson of Hopkins, one of the co-chairs, has also endorsed Biden.

Still, many key Harris supporters in South Carolina, including former state lawmaker Bakari Sellers and state Rep. JA Moore, have not declared a choice.

The New York Times on Thursday reported Harris was considering endorsing Biden as a way of positioning herself as a possible vice presidential pick.

Harris, in an interview on Sirius XM the next day, denied the claim and said her focus was squarely on the impeachment trial.

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.

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