Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg will attend an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day event hosted by the NAACP in South Carolina after facing backlash for his decision to skip it.
Buttigieg had originally been slated to attend an event in his hometown of South Bend, Ind., where he served as mayor, but announced late Saturday that he would also attend South Carolina’s King Day at the Dome rally.
“The South Bend community has always been at the heart of Pete’s campaign for president, which is why he planned to attend an MLK event there Monday. But he also wants to make clear his commitment to earning the support and trust of every voter in South Carolina, including those of the African-American community who consistently serve as the base of our party,” Buttigieg’s South Carolina communications director said in a statement.
“Pete looks forward to being with the citizens and leaders of Columbia to commemorate the 20th anniversary of King Day at the Dome.”
Buttigieg was reportedly not on the list of presidential candidates slated to attend the event when it was first released.
Former South Carolina Rep. Bakari Sellers (D) called it “disrespectful” for candidates to miss the event, but did not call out Buttigieg or others by name.
“I’m putting this out there. Candidates skipping King Day at the Dome is disrespectful AF. You don’t miss an Iowa steak fry,” he tweeted Friday.
“Look, [you’re] not just speaking to black folk in SC you’re speaking to black folks throughout the South. I’m disappointed. It’s like you don’t care.”
Im putting this out there. Candidates skipping King Day at the Dome is disrespectful AF. You don’t miss an Iowa steak fry.
Look, your not just speaking to black folk in SC you’re speaking to black folks throughout the South.
I’m disappointed. It’s like you don’t care.
— Bakari Sellers (@Bakari_Sellers) January 17, 2020
Candidates scheduled to attend the march and rally at the South Carolina Statehouse include former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Tom Steyer, according to The Associated Press.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) communications director, Tim Hogan, tweeted that the senator will be attending a prayer service Monday in South Carolina as well as the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum the same day.
“Unlike some of the candidates she has an early speaking time in Iowa and was trying to change it so she could do both,” Hogan said.
Buttigieg’s support in South Carolina has not been as strong as it has been in several other early nominating states. He has struggled to build support from African-American voters, a key voting bloc of the state’s Democrats.
A Fox News poll of South Carolina voters released earlier this month found Buttigieg at a distant fifth place in the race, with 4 percent support. Biden led the field with 36 percent support, followed by Steyer, at 15 percent, Sanders, at 14 percent, and Warren at 10 percent. The same survey found Klobuchar polling below 2 percent.
The South Carolina primary will take place on Feb. 29. It’s the last primary before the Super Tuesday states will vote on March 3.