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Democrats mark King’s birthday on presidential campaign trail

Democrats locked in a tight race for their party’s presidential nomination marked the holiday that celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. by seeking the support of black voters on Monday (January 20)..

U.S. presidential candidates, including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer, Tulsi Gabbard, and Deval Patrick spent Monday in South Carolina, which will hold one of the first nominating contests in the race.

Events featuring several of the candidates include a morning prayer service, march and rally in Columbia, South Carolina, dedicated to the slain U.S. civil rights icon. In the afternoon, candidates spoke at a forum on policy issues facing black voters in Des Moines, Iowa.

Monday is the federal holiday celebrating King, who was shot dead by an assassin in 1968 at age 39. Candidates have packed their holiday schedules with multi-state campaigning in the crucial final days two weeks before Iowa holds its Feb. 3 caucus.

Black voters will play a key role as Democrats choose who will face President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election. They make up more than one in five Democratic primary voters nationally and about two-thirds of the party electorate in South Carolina, meaning candidates have been making regular stops in the state. South Carolina Democrats hold the fourth nominating contest on Feb. 29, before the 14 states holding contests on Super Tuesday on March 3.

Biden leads among black voters nationally, with about 24% of the vote, compared to Sanders at 16%, according to an average of recent Reuters/Ipsos polls. A quarter of black voters said they were undecided.

King’s efforts are credited with the expansion of black voting and civil rights, but many voters see those rights under attack. Democrats have crafted competing polices on voter suppression, economic development and criminal justice reform.

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