Strapped for cash and losing ground, Marianne Williamson files for SC Democratic primary ballot

COLUMBIA — Longshot presidential candidate Marianne Williamson formally filed to run in South Carolina’s first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential primary, becoming the first Democratic candidate to lock in a spot on the ballot ahead of the Nov. 10 filing deadline.

But with fewer than 90 days to go until South Carolina Democratic voters head to the polls Feb. 3, the presidential hopeful remains just that: hopeful.

Her campaign has failed to gain much momentum, wavering nationally between about 4 percent and 9 percent polling, according to averages compiled by aggregator RealClearPolitics. Her campaign is nearly out of money, with debts outweighing her war chest’s funds by nearly a quarter-million dollars.

And with just three months until primary day, Williamson has committed most of her attention not to the early vote in South Carolina, but to New Hampshire, the one state where President Joe Biden will not be appearing on the ballot.

Absent from the state since her last swing through South Carolina in August, Williamson, an author and spiritualist, said she does not plan to visit again until December, with planned stops to places like Nevada and New York City. 

On a brief visit to Columbia on Nov. 6 to sign her paperwork to run in the South Carolina primary before a five-day stretch in New England, Williamson remained undeterred about her chances. 

“If there’s a dollar in my bank account, I’m in it,” Williamson told reporters.

Williamson’s bank account came up often during her appearance at the state Democratic Party headquarters, particularly given that her campaign’s lack of funds was the primary factor behind her decision to drop out of the running during her last bid in January 2020.

Campaign finance reports show she has not paid a South Carolina-based salary in months after her in-state staff quit en masse over the summer. In a brief interview with The Post and Courier, she said she had no immediate plans to hire more, and that her in-state operation would be led by her national team.

Her lack of funds has also become central to her campaign’s communications. With just over $100,000 in her campaign account at the close of the third quarter, Williamson lamented South Carolina’s mandatory $20,000 filing fee on social media the morning of Nov. 6, ripping the South Carolina Democratic Party “machine” while saying the prohibitively high cost of registering to run is why her campaign was “begging for money all the time” in campaign literature.

“Because otherwise you can’t play the game,” she said in a video posted on the website X, formerly known as Twitter. “You either have to be someone of wealth or have a career or something that gives you that kind of access that you can even be in the game. It’s just disgusting.”

South Carolina Democratic Party officials said the filing fee is set by the state, not the party, and they do not receive any of the money unless a candidate decides to drop out of the race. 

Williamson also criticized the Democratic National Committee’s decision to change the first-in-the-nation primary from New Hampshire to South Carolina, alleging — like she has in the past — it was done to benefit Biden, who won the state in 2020 after lackluster performances elsewhere. 

DNC officials said at the time of the decision to move South Carolina up in the primary calendar it was done to give greater weight to the state’s racial diversity in presidential races. Williamson, who is White, said she believed Black voters didn’t see it that way. 

“I haven’t heard African American voters say to me that they don’t get what really went down here,” Williamson told reporters. “I think that no matter what your color, no matter what your ethnicity or culture, we get what the political situation is. As I said before, the president came in fifth in New Hampshire last time, and we all know he has South Carolina on lockdown.”

Asked by reporters to respond, South Carolina Democratic Party chairwoman Christale Spain, who is Black, had a different view.

“South Carolina going first means Southern voters go first, rural voters go first and Black voters are going first,” said Spain. “And that is the first time in our country’s history that we’ve said ‘we want to hear your voices first.’ As an African American voter, I absolutely celebrate South Carolina being the first in the nation primary.”

In South Carolina, Williamson likely won’t have much competition. Beyond Biden, new entrant Dean Phillips, a congressman from Minnesota, has not yet contacted the SCDP about filing to run, officials told The Post and Courier. Other prospective candidates, like liberal talk show host Cenk Uygur, also have yet to file paperwork in South Carolina. 

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