FLORENCE — Gloria Bromell Tinubu didn’t see her victory in the June runoff that secured her Democratic nomination for South Carolina’s Seventh Congressional District as just a political achievement; she saw it as the realization of a dream.
“You’re giving me an opportunity to serve this community that I’ve always wanted to serve,” Tinubu told supporters Tuesday. “As a little girl growing up in Plantersville I dreamed of this day. Of going off to college as the first in my family to go to college, to parents who only had an elementary school education, to go off and get the training and knowledge I needed to come back and serve.”
“Dreams,” “service” and “coming back” are messages carried over from Tinubu’s, successful primary run earlier this summer and will be front and center in the general election campaign, which was in full swing during a meet-n-greet with supporters Tuesday night at Osbourne’s in Florence.
“Realizing the American Dream” remains a strong Tinubu campaign theme, a message rooted in a push for education and training as a way to promote economic growth, especially for young people.
That’s largely what motivated Tinubu, who holds a PhD in applied economics, to move back to South Carolina after spending roughly 40 years away from home, she said, most of that in Georgia where she held several public offices, including a stint as an Atlanta city councilwoman.
The candidate told supporters that when she came back to check on the family home in Georgetown County last summer, finding it in poor condition and her community with it, she made the decision to begin her congressional run.
“Our community had been ignored and neglected, just as our family home had been ignored and neglected,” she said. “And I felt it was my responsibility to restore it.”
That restoration, Tinubu said, begins with education, saying many young people have become unmotivated and under achieving when it comes to obtaining a high school diploma, let alone a college degree.
“If they’re not motivated, if they’re not inspired, then it’s our fault,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to inspire and encourage them.”
Education is something Tinubu knows well. Currently a professor at Coastal Carolina University, Tinubu has spent time teaching at the high school and collegiate levels, and served as a member of Georgia’s board of education during her time in that state.
Tinubu’s primary opponent, Horry County attorney Preston Brittain, attempted to use her Georgia past against her. The campaign labeled her a “carpetbagger” and called attention to the fact Tinubu was a member of the Georgia state legislature as recently as December of last year.
As in the primary, Tinubu didn’t shy away from her past, telling supporters she only agreed to fill the Georgia house seat after its sitting member decided to run for state senate and made the decision in November to resign in order to run for the 7th District in South Carolina.
Her move to Georgia came in the 1970s after marrying her husband, Soji, after they graduated from Clemson University when he couldn’t find civil engineering work in South Carolina.
“We find today that many of our children are challenged with the same kind of dilemma. They may want to be here, they may want to say here, but they don’t see the choices,” Tinubu said. “They don’t see the opportunity, they don’t see the options available to them, and we have got to change that. It’s our responsibility to change that.”
Those who attended didn’t hide their admiration for the Georgetown native, serenading her with “Gloria! Gloria! Hallelujah!” – set to the melody of “ The Battle Hymn of the Republic” – prior to her remarks.
Tinubu got emotional as she addressed the crowd of roughly 40, fighting back tears while thanking those for their support in the primary process, before composing herself and moving on to the issues of the day.
The event brought out local Democratic leaders including Rep. Terry Alexander, D-Darlington, and County Councilman Mitchell Kirby, as well as several prominent Democratic supporters from the area.
Donald Fowler, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and professor at the University of South Carolina who remains a behind the scenes force in the national party.
A representative from U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn’s office was also in attendance.