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Sen. Cory Booker

Sen. Cory Booker answers questions from reporters following the CNN town hall held at Stevenson Auditorium in Orangeburg.

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker said he was “proud to reach those here in Orangeburg” at the CNN town hall event held Wednesday night.

“I’ve been going to a lot of rural areas really trying to make a point in my campaign: as a guy who comes from Newark and places that were ignored, or places that were often talked down to, this is a great community,” Booker said.

Booker stated that he will have, “a lot of policies and ideas that will empower this community to flourish in the way that I know it will.”

CNN’s event was held in Orangeburg’s Stevenson Auditorium. The New Jersey senator answered questions from many audience members, including students from South Carolina State University, Whittaker Elementary School Principal Dr. Teresa Jennings and the Rev. James Vigen of Orangeburg Lutheran Church.

Booker spoke of the importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities during the town hall event and followed up his statements when talking to reporters afterward.

“HBCUs in our country are vital lifelines to this nation’s ideals. They produce overwhelmingly most of our black teachers and black lawyers and black scientists, military leadership. And without our HBCUs, we would be bereft of those pipelines for leadership and service,” Booker stated.

“So, if you believe in a nation that is diverse and inclusive, that creates opportunity for all, but even more than that, that benefits from diversity, you’ve got to support HBCUs. They’re not just about African Americans, they’re really about helping our country live up to its promise and be a greater nation for all,” Booker said.

Booker also talked about his effort to expand the 10-20-30 program designed by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.

The 10-20-30 program is designed to help poor communities by directing 10 percent of certain federal funds to communities where at least 20 percent of the people have lived in poverty for 30 years or more.

It has directly affected The T&D Region by directing $100,000 to the construction of the Bamberg-Barnwell Emergency Medical Center. In an October 2018 interview with The T&D, Clyburn also noted that the legislation helped with the water system in Bowman.

Booker and Clyburn announced a bill in 2018 titled “An Act Targeting Resources into Communities in Need,” which would expand the original 10-20-30 legislation.

Booker said he is, “proud to lead that bill in the Senate and hope to do to some things with Congressman Clyburn to make it stronger, and I’m hoping we can get it to become a law.”

He also answered questions about opportunity zone legislation he wrote with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican. The federal tax incentive program encourages long-term private investment in low-income communities.

Orangeburg County has two opportunity zones, one encompassing Holly Hill and surrounding areas, and the other encompassing the City of Orangeburg.

Clyburn recently criticized the opportunity zones program, but Booker said he and Scott will continue to work on the federal program.

“I think that the legislation that Tim Scott and I wrote, we’re going to continue to improve it. But, the reason why I’m the Senate leader on the 10-20-30 program is because I believe in the wisdom and insight that was brought to that legislation by Congressman Clyburn’s leadership,” Booker said.

Booker also discussed the potential of counties like Orangeburg, calling them “corridors of opportunity” rather than a “Corridor of Shame.” He detailed some of the opportunities he sees that are available in such counties, and said he will make an effort to make those opportunities happen as president.

“You’re seeing the cuts that Republicans are making in the state and refusing to send Medicare, hurting rural hospitals, which are economic centers as well as giving people access to care. That’s something, as a president, that will be on my agenda is rural health care,” Booker said. He also said he will support public education in general.

Booker also said he will focus on infrastructure.

“Rural infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure. From broadband to water quality, we need to have a rural infrastructure vision and that’s something that I’m going to bring as president of the United States,” Booker stated.

The 2020 presidential hopeful said that he hopes the town hall gave voters a sense of what qualifies him to be the next president of the United States.

“I hope that they understand that I’m a leader that has tremendous leadership experience, executive experience running at the toughest problems in our country, and bringing people together to solve them and make a difference,” Booker said.

“And the kind of president that I will be is just that: taking on a lot of the problems in our country, the common pain that we have, reuniting us and reigniting us with a sense of common purpose to make our nation be true, and full, and rich for everybody in this country, leaving nobody behind,” Booker added.

Booker’s next visit in Orangeburg will be May 10 when he will serve as the 2019 commencement speaker for S.C. State University.

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

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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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