Kambrell Garvin led his own voter registration campaign at the age of 10. At the age of 12, he worked on a political campaign for the first time.
Now, as a current USC graduate student, Garvin has secured the Democratic nomination for SC House District 77, with a win in a June primary.
The Columbia native and current USC School of Law student unseated decade-long incumbent Joe McEarchen. Garvin won 69 percent of the vote to McEarchen’s 31 percent. District 77 covers most of Blythewood and communities like Meadow Lake, Lincolnshire, Blue Ridge Terrace, Folkstone and Hollywood Hills. Garvin will go on to face to Libertarian candidate Justin Bishop in November.
As of now, no Republicans have filed for the race.
Garvin’s platform focuses on promoting educational equity, increasing minimum wage, economic growth, reforming prison systems, working to expand Medicare and many other issues. According to Garvin, his campaign theme, “A New Day," registered with voters who wanted change.
He credits his mother, a veteran who earned a master’s degree in speech, theatre and dance at USC, with helping inspire his activism. She became a speech therapist who helped Garvin overcome a speech impediment.
"At an early age, I realized the power of my voice," Garvin said.
Garvin is married to his "college sweetheart," Monique Patton Garvin, who he met in 2010 at Winthrop University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science with minors in African-American studies and sociology. After they met, the two went on to become educators with Teach for America, which is a non-profit organization that works to end educational inequity by recruiting recent college graduates and professionals into teaching.
“I was so taken aback by his humility and his passion for serving,” Patton Garvin said.
Garvin also made an impact on his fraternity brother Ian Deas, now a program coordinator at Princeton University, who said Garvin has been a mentor to him. He said he’s not sure he would’ve recognized his own passion if it weren’t for Garvin taking him under his wing.
“He was the epitome of leadership,” Deas said about Garvin.
Garvin obtained a master's degree in education from John Hopkins University in 2016 and will graduate from USC's Law School in spring 2019. Garvin said his legal training will “be extremely beneficial for me as a legislator.”
Garvin draws inspiration from his grandfather, Rev. Henry McGill Jr., who became the first African-American city council member in Marion, South Carolina in the 1970s He was also a successful entrepreneur who owned a variety of businesses and real estate property.
“He stood up to injustices in his community. He stood up and he spoke out and he was unafraid to call a spade a spade," Garvin said. “It showed me the impact that he made on the lives of so many people. It showed me he was down to earth, he was able to easily relate to folks. He was all about serving, he wanted to make sure he left the world a little bit better,”
Charles West met Garvin in the fifth grade, and the two have remained close friends since. Once they both graduated from college, the two roomed together while working with Teach For America.
“I think one of the things that I admire most about him is that he’s able to see problems to any solution,” West said.
Garvin encourages young leaders to act now, even though it may not seem like the perfect time for them to do so.
“I think that we’re going to see a wave of young leaders that are coming up and I think this is just the beginning. I’m excited about it.”