U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris said she came to Orangeburg County on Saturday to listen.

“The only way that I believe we can ensure our relevancy to the people that we serve is to listen to the people that we serve,” she said.

Harris, who is running for president, hosted a town hall event at South Carolina State University.

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Harris answered questions from the audience during the event that was moderated by Denmark native and CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers, who recently endorsed the California senator.

Audience members asked Harris a series of questions about various national, state and local issues.

Harris, who visited Holly Hill before the event, said she has emphasized visiting rural areas across the state that don’t always get to see a presidential candidate.

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“We have a design that gives emphasis to large populations. We have a design that gives emphasis to communities that have a tax base, but so many of our rural communities do not have a substantial tax base and do not have large populations, and for that reason do not receive the benefits of the services they need,” Harris said.

Harris also spoke on the importance of historically black colleges and universities, and how HBCUs should receive more government support based on the historical importance and the current importance of the institutions.

Harris said she held the town hall at S.C. State to, “hear about the way that folks are thinking about issues, and also to hear and get feedback about a lot of the policies that we have been leading around supporting HBCUs, both in terms of the students that are nurtured and are encouraged through our HBCUs,” she said.

Harris said she supports medical marijuana.

“I personally know people who have only benefited from its use. I also believe that we need to legalize marijuana in this country. The criminalization of the use of that drug has led to the disproportionately large number of men of color being incarcerated and criminalized,” Harris said.

Harris also stated that the effects of marijuana should be studied.

“We know that there are benefits, medical benefits. We also need to be able to study the effects on the human brain, the forming human brain 18-24,” Harris said.

Harris said the war on drugs has led to mass incarceration.

“We have failed in this country to recognize that that war on drugs was an abject failure and what was essentially, and should have been treated as a public health issue became a criminal justice issue and led to mass incarceration of in particular black and brown men in this country, and we have got to reform this system,” Harris stated.

Harris also responded to a question about student loan debt, stating she has a proposal to have debt-free college.

“We have to have free community college. We need to allow students to refinance their student loan debt, which right now you cannot do. We need to have a system where your re-payment will be a function of your income, and so changing the method of calculating payment, so that it is income based, and we also need to go after creditors because there are creditors in this space who are taking advantage of these students who have this student loan debt and charging them exorbitant rates,” she said.

“And there needs to be, frankly, some responsibility and accountability and consequence for those predators who are preying on our young people who committed the offense of deciding that they wanted to put themselves on a path to increase their education to increase their productivity to provide us with our future leadership,” Harris continued.

Harris also tackled a question about internet privacy and the regulation of data. She stated that there isn’t much external regulation for the technology industry.

“There is no question that we need regulation of the technology industry, no question at all. We need greater protections as it relates to privacy,” Harris said.

“We’ve got to fix that. As far as I’m concerned, I want you as a consumer to be fully informed and you give permission to what you are willing to give up or not, as opposed to it being taken from you as though it’s their property when it’s your property,” Harris said.

In addition to her the town hall event, Harris visited Greater Target AME Church in Holly Hill prior to the town hall and followed the town hall with an appearance at an Orangeburg County Democratic Party fundraiser.

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Contact the writer: bharris@timessanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5516


Staff Writer

Bradley Harris is a Government and Sports Reporter. The Irmo, SC native is a 2018 graduate of Claflin University and recipient of the 2018 South Carolina Press Association Collegiate Journalist of the Year Award.

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