Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and De Blasio court rural voters in South Carolina

By LaCrai Mitchell, Bo Erickson

/ CBS News

The small, unincorporated, rural community of Galivants Ferry, South Carolina felt like a bustling town center when four Democratic presidential candidates came here Monday. Hundreds of voters traveled from near and far to hear Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Bill De Blasio during the first-ever presidential Galivants Ferry Stump event.

Bluegrass music served as a soundtrack for part of the event while local vendors and Democratic groups set up informational tables underneath the awning of a Sunoco gas station. As people gathered—paper fans and pets in tow—lines of staffers and volunteers representing the various presidential campaigns carried signs throughout the night.

Vietnam veteran Leroy Sampson, who traveled half an hour to attend "the Stump" for the first time, said he's most interested in a candidate who supports veterans and he believes Joe Biden is that candidate. According to the latest CBS Battleground Tracker, Biden continues to lead as the "first choice for nominee" in the state by 25 percent.

"He has always been a support behind the military guys so he has always resonated with me," said Sampson.

Although the event headliners were four Democratic presidential candidates, that didn't stop Republican voters from coming to hear the 2020 hopefuls' appeals. South Carolina is an open primary state, which means that in February any registered voter will be able to vote in the Democratic primary regardless of their political affiliation.

John Dabrowski, who sported a "Republican for Pete" sign throughout the event, said that it's important for the Democratic Party to put someone on the ballot who can be a viable option for voters like him.

"The Democratic party needs an electable person that maybe Republicans will go vote for," said Dabrowski. "We need somebody that's going to go into the center and that's what Mayor Pete is and that's why I would be able to vote for him."

Democratic senatorial candidate Jaime Harrison was one of the speakers during the presidential Galivants Ferry Stump. Harrison is challenging longtime South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham for his seat in 2020. Bo Erickson/CBS News

Dabrowski wasn't the only Republican there. Mark Sanford, a former South Carolina governor and congressman who is challenging President Trump for the GOP nomination, was also in attendance. Sanford announced his run earlier this month, a day after the state GOP decided to forego a Republican primary for 2020.

"I'm not one of these folks that believes in the tribalism that we so often see in today's politics," said Sanford. "At the end of the day, the problems that are solved are not just solved for Republicans, they're not just solved for Democrats, they're solved for all of us."

While this is the first time the Stump has featured presidential candidates, the event has been organized by the local Holliday family since 1876. Russell Holliday, who is in the 4th generation of family members running the event, says "back in the old days" anyone who wanted to get elected had to go "town to town" to give stump speeches. That is, until the advent of television.

"Most of the candidates decided it was a lot more efficient to be on TV so they stopped coming to the stump speaking," said Holliday. "So my father who was a believer in tradition…created the story that if you didn't appear at the Galivants Ferry Stump speaking you wouldn't get elected, lo and behold if it didn't happen."

This would have typically been an off year for the biennial gathering. But Holliday says state officials encouraged the family to have a presidential stump because South Carolina is now the crucial "first in the South" primary. Quinby Councilman Eddie Thomas has attended several stumps but said this one would be remembered as a milestone.

"Being that this is presidential, you can see the crowd, you can see the momentum, you can see the excitement and we're excited!" said Thomas. "When we leave Galivants Ferry, we're going to be going throughout the state but it's all going to begin right here."

Located on the Little Pee Dee River off of Highway 501, Galivants Ferry boasts few buildings, a big barn, and a population of just over 5,000. Holliday describes it as a "crossroads" where you don't see many homes and children typically attend schools in the surrounding cities.

Doris Potter-Hickman, a State Executive Committee Member of the Horry County Democratic Party, said it's very important that candidates come to areas like Galivants Ferry to communicate what they will do individually and collectively "for the people."

"Everybody needs to feel like somebody," said Potter-Hickman. "You get a shared vision when you feel that you're a part of something that's going to be progressive and that's going to help more than your community."

First published on September 17, 2019 / 2:56 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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