Buttigieg shifts plans, will attend King holiday event in SC

MEG KINNARD
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the Iowa State Education Association Candidate Forum, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in West Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who has been criticized for his slow outreach to black and other minority voters, has rearranged his schedule to make room for events in early-voting South Carolina that honor Martin Luther King Jr.

Buttigieg’s campaign said in a statement Saturday night that the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, “looks forward to being with the citizens and leaders of Columbia” as they celebrate the federal holiday that commemorates the late civil rights leader.

Buttigieg had already committed to attend a King celebration in South Bend, but shifted his plans to include the South Carolina events.

The Columbia commemoration, a march and rally at the South Carolina Statehouse, is a symbolic and highly visible event for presidential candidates hoping to appeal to the black voters, who make up most of the state's Democratic electorate. Among the 2020 contenders scheduled to attend are former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and businessman Tom Steyer.

Campaigns for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick have announced plans to attend. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar's campaign said on Twitter she would be in the state for a prayer service Monday.

Polling so far in the nomination contest has shown that Biden holds a commanding lead among black voters.

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Associated Press writer Thomas Beaumont in Council Bluffs, Iowa, contributed to this report.

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