Buttigieg acknowledges work needed to appeal to black voters

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Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg holds a town hall in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Sunday, May 5, 2019. Buttigieg says he’s focusing on outreach to minorities, who make up most of the Democratic primary electorate in this early-voting state. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. | Continuing his outreach to African American voters, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg acknowledged Sunday that he needs to do more work to connect with the community, particularly in the early-voting state of South Carolina.

“It shows we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Buttigieg said after a town hall with 600 mostly white voters in North Charleston, where nearly half the population is black.

Buttigieg is planning to do just that during his two-day swing in South Carolina, the first state where black votes play a major role in the presidential primaries. On Monday, he’s holding a meet and greet in Orangeburg before sitting down with community leaders in Columbia.

Some of Buttigieg’s comments touched on issues African American voters have said they see as crucial in the 2020 presidential election, including criminal justice reform. On that front, Buttigieg said he wanted to do away with structures “that perpetuate racial inequality in this country,” including mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.

In what he has characterized as a conscious effort to focus on issues important to black voters, Buttigieg this past week met in New York with the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights leader, at the Harlem soul food restaurant Sylvia’s. Buttigieg said Sharpton encouraged him “to engage with people who may not find their way to me, who I need to go out and find my way in front of.”

Earlier Sunday, Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, joined the large crowd at former President Jimmy Carter’s Sunday school class in rural South Georgia. At Carter’s invitation Buttigieg stood and read from the Bible as part of the lesson at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains. Talking with reporters Sunday, Buttigieg called his meeting with Carter “very humbling,” saying they discussed, among other topics, “the rigors of campaigning for president.”

Elsewhere in campaigning Sunday by Democratic presidential candidates:

MICHAEL BENNET

The latest Democrat pursuing the presidential nomination is trying to distinguish himself as someone “who’s going to level with the American people about why our system doesn’t seem to work for them.”

Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that his time in Washington has helped him know how to get things done and what needs fixing.

He said it’s “a disgrace that we lost” to Donald Trump in 2016, adding that Democrats must find an approach to deny him a second term.

Bennet said it seems “fairly clear” from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that Trump “committed impeachable offenses,” but for now the senator favored continued congressional investigations.

He said he thinks Attorney General William Barr should resign and that Barr “has behaved like Trump’s criminal defense lawyer” rather than the nation’s attorney general.

JOE BIDEN

Democrat Joe Biden wrapped up his first presidential campaign trip to South Carolina by worshipping at a prominent African American church in West Columbia.

Sitting on a front-center pew, the former vice president and his wife, Jill, received a standing ovation when the Rev. Charles B. Jackson of Brookland Baptist Church introduced them as “Dr. Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden.”

The 76-year-old Catholic candidate smiled and waved.

“Dr. Joe, that was some major applause, my brother,” Jackson said.

Jackson praised his congregation as already approaching 100 percent voter registration and participation. He encouraged parishioners to “take somebody else to the polls with you.”

South Carolina hosts the South’s first presidential primary and is the first state in the Democratic nominating process where black voters wield considerable influence.

BETO O’ROURKE

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke repeated his calls to impeach President Donald Trump and drew a distinction between himself and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has declined any rush to proceedings.

The former Texas congressman spoke with reporters on Sunday after a town hall at a former livestock auction space in rural Shenandoah, Iowa.

O’Rourke said special counsel Robert Mueller’s report makes impeachment more necessary than ever. “Proceedings in the House ensure that more of these facts come to light, ensure that the Senate can make a very informed decision about this president,” he said.

Asked about Pelosi cautioning against doing so, O’Rourke answered: “That’s fine. We’re two different people.”

O’Rourke said he really respects “the speaker and what she’s been able to do, but when asked my opinion I’ve got to give my opinion, not anyone else’s.”

BERNIE SANDERS

Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed a sweeping agriculture and rural investment plan that would change farm subsidies and break up major agriculture monopolies.

Sanders unveiled the plan in Osage, Iowa, a town of fewer than 4,000 residents.

The plan includes a number of antitrust proposals, including breaking up existing agriculture monopolies and placing a moratorium on future mergers between big agriculture companies.

It also proposes major changes to the current farm subsidy system toward what the plan calls a “parity system.” That plan seeks to ensure farmers are “guaranteed the cost of production and family living expenses,” though the plan doesn’t include details on how.

Sanders would also classify food supply as a national security issue.

Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP