COLUMBIA — As President-elect Joe Biden’s transition gradually begins, so too does the jockeying for potential jobs in his new administration, with a number of South Carolinians possibly in the running for a variety of posts.
The pool of South Carolina Democrats in position for federal positions is somewhat smaller than when a new Republican president takes office, given the state’s longtime GOP majority.
But Biden has long had a particular affinity for South Carolina, the state that played a pivotal role in his Democratic primary win, and has close relationships with a number of prominent Palmetto State politicos who could be under consideration for either powerful roles in Washington, federal jobs in South Carolina or ambassadorships abroad.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn
The first name on many observers’ minds is Clyburn, the Columbia Democrat whose endorsement of Biden just days before South Carolina’s crucial Feb. 29 primary was considered instrumental in his landslide victory, which then helped lift Biden to the eventual nomination.
Clyburn, 80, has been explicit in ruling out the possibility of leaving his post as the third-ranking House Democrat. But he will likely be the key gatekeeper for other South Carolinians who do hope to get administration jobs, as his recommendations will carry significant sway with Biden.
“I have absolutely no interest in being in this administration,” Clyburn said Monday. “I do have every interest in trying to help this administration get this country back on track.”
Fresh off his loss to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Harrison is now arguably the second most well-known South Carolina Democrat in the country. Harrison was the only name Clyburn mentioned as a possible contender for a Biden administration role during a call with reporters Monday.
One possible position for Harrison would be chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a post he unsuccessfully sought after the 2016 election before demonstrating notable fundraising prowess as he brought in a record-breaking $130 million for his Senate campaign.
State Sen. Marlon Kimpson
Newly reelected for his third term representing Charleston, Kimpson was another one of Biden’s most prized endorsements in the lead-up to his South Carolina primary win and continued to serve as a national surrogate for the nominee in the ensuing months. He was one of 17 “rising stars” featured at the Democratic National Convention.
With expertise in securities litigation, Kimpson could fit in a number of high-ranking agency roles, including the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Treasury Department.
Solicitor David Pascoe
Currently the 1st Circuit solicitor in Orangeburg, a position he has held since 2005, Pascoe is considered one of the early frontrunners for U.S. attorney in South Carolina. Pascoe gained significant recognition as the lead prosecutor on the long-running Statehouse corruption probe, which resulted in indictments, guilty pleas and resignations of five top members of the Legislature.
Other possible contenders for the U.S. attorney role include Kimpson and S.C. Ethics Commission executive director Meghan Walker, though the list is likely longer with a number of prominent lawyers around the state.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin
Though Benjamin initially supported former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the Democratic presidential primary, both he and Bloomberg later worked to help Biden.
Benjamin built a national network during his tenure as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and is a regular fixture in conversations about potential Democratic administration appointments, even making the list of potential running mates in 2016 for then-nominee Hillary Clinton.
State Sen. Dick Harpootlian
Harpootlian is a longtime, outspoken Biden supporter with close ties to the president-elect. But right now, the former two-time S.C. Democratic Party chairman is focused first and foremost on the upcoming redistricting process in the Legislature, which was the top reason he decided to run for the state Senate in 2018.
Person, a former Gamecocks offensive guard, was Biden’s right-hand man from 2006 through 2014 before returning to Fort Mill and running for Congress unsuccessfully in 2016.
After starting as Biden’s body man, he became one of his closest confidants, is warmly regarded by the entire Biden family and would undoubtedly be welcomed back into the fold if he wants to be. Person is co-founder and board member of Chinese development firm Harves Entertainment.
Other than Person, no South Carolinian is closer to Biden than King, who came to know him during his extensive time as an aide for the late U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings and later served as S.C. state director of Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign and the vice president’s political director during the 2012 reelection campaign with President Barack Obama.
Now 68 with young grandchildren, King may be most likely to play an informal outside adviser role in Biden’s circle of trusted friends.
A former executive director of the S.C. Democratic Party, Loveday helped lead the most prominent pro-Biden super PAC, Unite the County, and has many longtime ties to Biden’s orbit.
Corley, a longtime S.C. Democratic strategist, led Biden’s triumphant South Carolina primary campaign and went on to serve as an advisor for the general election. He is one of several operatives on Biden’s South Carolina campaign who will likely be in line for a job in the White House or a federal agency.
Others include deputy state director Mariah Hill, political director Scott Harriford, communications director Paige Hill and deputy operations director Destine Hicks, all of whom continued working for the campaign elsewhere through the general election.
A former state lawmaker and current CNN political commentator, Sellers was one of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ earliest South Carolina endorsers and went on to become a vocal Biden supporter after she dropped out of the race.
That could put him in position to either serve in Harris’ office or in some role at the Department of Justice given his background as an attorney.
Few, if any, South Carolinians know more about how presidential transitions work than Webster, who helped manage the process for President Bill Clinton and went on to work as U.S. Education Secretary Dick Riley’s chief of staff and as director of scheduling and advance in the White House.
Webster was one of only three top-tier donors to Biden’s campaign from South Carolina, which is typically not a source of a significant Democratic cash. The others were state Sen. Dick Harpootlian of Columbia and attorney Joe Rice of Mount Pleasant. Webster co-founded the Spartanburg-based payday lending giant Advance America.
State Sen. Vincent Sheheen
A longtime state senator from Camden and two-time Democratic nominee for governor, Sheheen recently lost reelection in a stunning upset, which could open him up for potential administration roles. He is a longtime Biden supporter and was an early endorser of his 2020 campaign in South Carolina.
After an extensive career in law enforcement, Flowers unsuccessfully challenged Richland County sheriff Leon Lott in the 2016 Democratic primary. He is considered one of the early frontrunners to become South Carolina’s next U.S. marshal.
After serving as S.C. political director for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, Gunn left his role as a state lawmaker to spend three and a half years working in the administration at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He is now a leadership consultant.