Mary Ann Chastain/AP
Alvin Greene, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, waves Sunday after making his first public speech during the monthly meeting of the NAACP in Manning, S.C.
Alvin Greene, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, waves Sunday after making his first public speech during the monthly meeting of the NAACP in Manning, S.C. Mary Ann Chastain/AP
South Carolina voters got their first official look Sunday at Alvin Greene, the unemployed veteran who shocked the political establishment by winning his state's Democratic U.S. Senate primary.
Greene picked the monthly meeting of his local NAACP branch to make his first campaign appearance.
Jerry Johnson, who arrived early, said the event was do-or-die for Greene.
"This is his moment. This is it," Johnson said. "So he needs to get his message across and make sure he'll reach the people who might not be for him at this moment."
As the music played and other guests onstage bobbed their heads and tapped their toes, Greene looked straight ahead, perfectly still for a half-hour, both hands clasped on the spiral notebook in his lap where he had written his speech.
Then, Greene started with an introduction: "Good afternoon to everyone. I'm the best candidate in the United States Senate race here in South Carolina."
Although it was billed as a 20-minute speech, it lasted just 8 minutes. Greene hit the three talking points he has repeated since grabbing the national spotlight: jobs, education and justice.
He said what's needed is more roads, more funding for education and a push to create green jobs.
"Now is the time to implement alternative forms of energy such as solar, wind and methane," he said. "These efforts will create green jobs and save Americans money."
Halfway through the speech, Greene veered off the talking points. Not getting too specific, he seemed to address the criminal charges he faces for an incident police say involved him showing pornography to a University of South Carolina student.
Greene has moved on from speculation about how an unknown candidate with little money, no campaign organization and no support from South Carolina Democrats won the primary against a seasoned campaigner. State investigators cleared him from any wrongdoing over the $10,000 filing fee he paid to enter the race.
These aren't Greene's only money problems. He has told reporters that he has raised $1,000, compared with Republican incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint's more than $3.5 million.
Greene didn't mention any of this in his short speech, but he called for getting Americans back to work and reclaiming the country from terrorists.
"Let's get our priorities in government in order and get South Carolina and America back to work for the people again," he said.
After his speech, Greene left the building without meeting voters, kissing babies or talking to the media.
Barbara Robinson, who traveled an hour to see Greene, said she was pleased with the speech. But she acknowledged that she worries that Greene will remain a late-night punchline.
"I think he's ... more knowledgeable than that to fall for that trap," she said. "Well, let's just pray and hope he does well, and may the best person win the election."
But the Democratic candidate faces an uphill task. The South Carolina Democratic Party has refused to support Greene, and some unions, which typically back Democrats, are reportedly endorsing the Green Party candidate in this race.