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Chair of South Carolina Democrats isn't seeking reelection

Trav Robertson, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party speaks before a vote for new calendar lineup for the early stages of the party's presidential nominating contests during the Democratic National Committee Winter Meeting, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Trav Robertson, the leader of South Carolina's Democrats, said Wednesday that he won't seek another term as party chair as the state prepares to host the party's first 2024 presidential primary in the nation.

“With the hard work of our leadership — with the teamwork of many — we have made so much progress," Robertson told The Associated Press ahead of an official announcement. "I look forward to building on these relationships and serving South Carolina into the future.”

Robertson has led the state's Democrats since 2017, when he took over from Jaime Harrison, who's now chair of the Democratic National Committee.

While the party's national prominence has risen, most recently when the DNC voted to make South Carolina the first voting state on its 2024 presidential primary calendar, South Carolina's Democrats have struggled to notch electoral wins at many levels of office.

Winless in statewide elections since 2006, Democrats hold only one of the state's seven U.S. House seats. The party last won a Senate race in 1998, and Jimmy Carter was the last Democrat to carry the state in a presidential election.

There have been some successes, however. In 2018, Joe Cunningham became the first Democrat to flip a House seat from red to blue in South Carolina in decades, though he lost his reelection bid two years later.

On Wednesday, Harrison on Twitter lauded Robertson's stewardship of that 2018 victory and his work to secure South Carolina's No. 1 position on the primary calendar and “a permanent home" for that party's Columbia headquarters.

“No one works harder!” Harrison said, of Robertson.

Some candidates have already jumped into the race to succeed Robertson, who didn't say what he planned to do next. Christale Spain, a longtime Democratic political operative, would be the first Black woman to chair the party if elected. Robertson said he would support Spain’s bid.

Spain became the executive director of the state Democratic Party in 2016, worked as political director for Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign and served as Sen. Cory Booker's state director for his 2020 White House bid. She founded 46 Hope Road, a political action committee aimed at energizing voters who had been inactive since President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and worked on Black voter engagement for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2022 midterms.

Also vying for the chairmanship is Brandon Upson, a progressive Democrat who has served as chair of the state party’s Black Caucus. He was an adviser to Tom Steyer’s presidential campaign in South Carolina in 2020. Since then, Upson founded Amplify Action, a national voter registration and mobilization effort.

South Carolina Democrats will select their next party chair at their spring convention.

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

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This story has been corrected to show Spain’s job with Sen. Booker was on his White House bid, not his reelection bid.