Brady Booker

Charleston County Democratic Party Chairman Brady Quirk-Garvan, left, poses for a photo with Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. Quirck-Garvan announced Friday that he will step down from his leadership post so that he can openly support Booker's run for president. Photo provided by Brady Quirk-Garvan.

Effective Friday, Brady Quirk-Garvan will resign as chairman of the Charleston County Democratic Party so he can openly support U.S. Sen. Cory Booker for president in 2020.

It's a key political post in the coastal South Carolina county, where six Republican seats have flipped to Democratic control during Quirk-Garvan's five years as county chairman.

"I don't want to be on the sidelines for this race," Quirk-Garvan told The Post and Courier of his decision ahead of the announcement. "Being the referee is a fun and important position — and having a party chair who is neutral is really important — and I'm just at a place where I want to be a player on the team now, not a referee."

Because Quick-Garvan is resigning midway through his term, an election to find his replacement will be held 6:30 p.m. March 21 at North Charleston City Hall, when the local party's executive committee usually meets.

Quirk-Garvan said he is not taking a job with the Booker campaign, but said he felt compelled to throw his weight behind the New Jersey Democrat with an early endorsement after speaking with him one-on-one in Charleston last weekend. 

To date, Quirk-Garvan estimates he has talked to more than 10 Democratic candidates. Last month, he acted as an emcee for a North Charleston town hall hosted by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who is also running for president.

"I think Cory Booker represents a younger generation, and he brings the same statesmanlike quality that Barack Obama did but with a lot more enthusiasm. I think he's someone who can speak to the base of the party, but also speak to moderates and independents," he said. 

Even if former Vice President Joe Biden jumps into the race, Quirk-Garvan said it would not change his mind.

Responding to news of the endorsement, Booker took to Twitter Friday morning.

"Brady, thank you so much for your kind words. Your leadership in Charleston County has inspired progressive action across South Carolina, and it’s an honor to have your support," Booker tweeted to his 4.2 million followers.

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State Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson characterized the departure as a loss for the state party and a boost for Booker. During the 2018 election cycle, the Charleston County Democratic Party raised more than $115,000 — a record for a county-level Democratic Party in the state.

"Without Brady and his leadership team, we might not have been able to get Joe Cunningham over the edge. We might not have been able to get J.A. Moore and Krystle Simmons to the Statehouse. The work that he has done is immeasurable as it relates to changing Charleston County from a Republican, to a swing, to a Democratic county. He's going to be missed," Robertson said.

Charleston County has become a must-win county for candidates trying to win statewide, said College of Charleston political scientist Gibbs Knotts. The work of county chairs often go unrecognized, he said.

"They play a really pivotal role in recruiting candidates, volunteering on behalf of the party, talking up the party, and getting people to turn out and vote," Knotts said. "Charleston County is one of those places where there's a lot of votes up for grabs."

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.