COLUMBIA, S.C. – A South Carolina elected official who endorsed Joe Biden last month is switching her allegiance to Bernie Sanders in the state's first-in-the-South presidential primary, saying she had viewed the former vice president — whose support in the state is considered deep -- as “a compromise choice.”
Dalhi Myers told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she was making the change in part because she values what she sees as Sanders' strength in being able to go toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump in the general election.
“I looked at that, and I thought, 'He's right,'" said Myers, a black woman first elected to the Richland County Council in 2016. “He's unafraid and he's unapologetic. ... I like the fact that he is willing to fight for a better America — for the least, the fallen, the left behind."
Sanders, a Vermont senator, frequently calls out what he sees as Trump's dishonesty, referring on the campaign trail to the president as a “pathological liar." Biden, whose relationships in South Carolina go back decades, has led polling in the state, particularly among the black voters who make up most of the state's Democratic primary electorate.
Sanders, whose 47-point loss to Hillary Clinton in 2016 in South Carolina blunted the momentum generated in opening primary contests and exposed his weakness with black voters, has focused on strengthening his ties in the state's black community.
In December, Myers, a corporate lawyer in Columbia, was among more than a dozen South Carolina elected officials to endorse Biden, saying at the time in a release from the Biden campaign that he was "the only candidate with the broad and diverse coalition of support we need to win" against Trump in the general election. Initially, Myers said she backed Biden because she saw him as a candidate who could possibly appeal to Republican voters disenfranchised by the president.
"It was a compromise choice," she said. "I didn't find anybody's candidacy electrifying, but I did find Joe Biden's candidacy to be reassuring in a sort of normal, American kind of way."
But over the ensuing weeks, Myers said she started to feel that Biden's candidacy, while familiar and perhaps comfortable, wasn't going to be enough to inspire the young voters whom she sees as necessary to a Democratic general election win.
When questioned how someone who considered herself a conservative Democrat could support a candidate like Sanders, whose proposals including “Medicare for All” suggest government growth on an as-yet unknown scale, Myers said she did have some concerns but expressed doubt that such measures would ever become law without changes.
“Medicare for All will have to go through Congress," she said. “He's not going to pull a Donald Trump."
Ultimately, Myers said her decision wasn't necessarily about her personal preferences.
“I'm a 50-year-old-black woman, and I tend to be middle of the road," Myers said. “I'm voting what I think is best for all of us, not just me. ... I'm not a left-wing liberal. I'm not even a left-wing Democrat. But I am a realist."
Meg Kinnard can be reached at https://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP
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