Chair of South Carolina Democrats isn't seeking reelection

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Trav Robertson, the leader of South Carolina's Democrats, said Wednesday that he won't seek another term as party chair as the state prepares to host the party's first 2024 presidential primary in the nation.

“With the hard work of our leadership — with the teamwork of many — we have made so much progress," Robertson told The Associated Press ahead of an official announcement. "I look forward to building on these relationships and serving South Carolina into the future.”

Robertson has led the state's Democrats since 2017, when he took over from Jaime Harrison, who's now chair of the Democratic National Committee.

While the party's national prominence has risen, most recently when the DNC voted to make South Carolina the first voting state on its 2024 presidential primary calendar, South Carolina's Democrats have struggled to notch electoral wins at many levels of office.

Winless in statewide elections since 2006, Democrats hold only one of the state's seven U.S. House seats. The party last won a Senate race in 1998, and Jimmy Carter was the last Democrat to carry the state in a presidential election.

There have been some successes, however. In 2018, Joe Cunningham became the first Democrat to flip a House seat from red to blue in South Carolina in decades, though he lost his reelection bid two years later.

Already, at least one candidate has jumped into the race to succeed Robertson. Christale Spain, a longtime Democratic political operative, would be the first Black woman to chair the party if elected.

Spain became the executive director of the state Democratic Party in 2016, worked as political director for Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign and served as Sen. Cory Booker's state director for his 2020 reelection bid. She founded 46 Hope Road, a political action committee aimed at energizing voters who had been inactive since President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and worked on Black voter engagement for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2022 midterms.

Robertson said he would support Spain's bid, saying he felt she "has the experience, leadership, and professionalism to grow the party in making South Carolina a better place for everyone.”

Also vying for the chairmanship is Brandon Upson, a progressive Democrat who has served as chair of the state party’s Black Caucus. He was an adviser to Tom Steyer’s presidential campaign in South Carolina in 2020. Since then, Upson founded Amplify Action, a national voter registration and mobilization effort.

South Carolina Democrats will select their next party chair at their spring convention.


Meg Kinnard can be reached at

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press