Winthrop preparing for presidential candidates on campus

Published: Nov. 4, 2015 at 12:03 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2017 at 5:22 PM EST
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ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV) - Winthrop students and staff are preparing for some big names and national attention this week as the campus hosts presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley.

The school's reputation has seen a big boost in the political arena and has already featured several Republican candidates this summer, including Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina.

"I think students, who may not be politically aware, now have a reason to become politically aware," said student Adarrell Gadsden.

Gadsden has used his experience at Winthrop to propel him to an internship with the county's Democratic party, chaired by Amy Hayes.

"For years the local party has advocated for greater attention for this area, for Rock Hill, even for Winthrop," Hayes said.

Even though many view the area as primarily republican, Hayes said it's proximity to Charlotte and North Carolina make it attractive to candidates on both sides looking to make waves in both Carolinas.

The Charlotte metro area is especially important as newcomers move in with different political affiliations.

"That makes this county increasingly important in statewide elections and a lot of the people coming in are not necessarily republican, a lot of them are not necessarily democratic either and so we have a case to make to them," Hayes said.

University leaders credit the recent push in politics to the startup of the Winthrop Poll and student involvement in the John C. West forum.

The forum is named for the state's former governor.

"If you're involved and interested in the political process, you will make intelligent decisions, because those are our future leaders," said Jack West, John West's son.

West is proud to see his father's legacy bringing positive attention to Winthrop and glad students like Gadsden are taking advantage of the opportunities.

"Even if you don't care about politics, I think it's interesting it's not everyday that you get to sit in a room with Hillary Clinton, so I think that's pretty interesting for people, or Bernie Sanders. I think people are really excited about kind of being involved in just the atmosphere," Gadsden said.

WBTV is taking a look at several aspects of Winthrop University and the efforts to bring the forum to Rock Hill.

Wednesday, the latest results from the Winthrop Poll will be released and WBTV will feature a look at the poll and how it works.

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