Vice President Kamala Harris is returning to South Carolina this week to headline a fundraising dinner for Democrats in the state, which plays a key role in the presidential nominating process.
State Democratic party officials announced Monday that Harris will be the keynote speaker at the Blue Palmetto Dinner, planned for Friday in Columbia.
The dinner comes just days before South Carolina's primary elections, where the contest for governor tops the statewide Democratic ballot. Five candidates are competing for their party's nomination to challenge incumbent Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, whose GOP challengers have failed to attract significant fundraising support.
Just two hours before the dinner, Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls, including former U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham and state Sen. Mia McLeod, are set to meet for their only primary debate.
For months, South Carolina has already been playing host to a myriad of Republicans potentially setting themselves up for 2024 White House bids, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Some native South Carolina Republicans have also been testing the 2024 waters. Nikki Haley, who served the state for six years as governor before joining the Trump administration as U.N. ambassador, lives in the Charleston area and has been visiting other early-voting states, as has U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.
Harris campaigned heavily in South Carolina during her own 2020 White House bid but left the race before the state's first-in-the-South primary, unable to achieve significant polling support or break through in a field that at one time included two dozen Democratic hopefuls. During that campaign, Harris worked to develop networks among Black voters often not elevated in the state's political campaign, such as the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, of which she is a member.
South Carolina, where Black voters play an outsized role in the Democratic electorate, ended up being the place where Joe Biden was able to revive his flagging presidential campaign, following a series of losses in other early-voting states.
That victory came after a key endorsement for Biden from U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, South Carolina's sole Democrat in Congress and whose backing was seen by some Black voters as a long-awaited signal that Biden would be the candidate best suited to represent them.
Earlier this year, Biden committed to tapping Harris as his running mate for the 2024 reelection campaign.
Meg Kinnard can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.
Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press