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Longtime Clinton associate says private Hillary is a hoot

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention at the Verizon Wireless Center on Sept. 19, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. Credit: Getty Images / Scott Eisen

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A longtime Democratic associate of Hillary Clinton gives a novel description of her friend to fellow South Carolinians: “Hermione with a sense of humor.”

Kaye Lingle Koonce, vice chairwoman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, uses the reference point of the smart, tough character in the “Harry Potter” books and movies because she said most people never see Clinton up close.

“She’s always the most prepared person in the room,” said Koonce, 61, of Charleston, a party super delegate who is committed to Clinton for the Democratic National Convention. “She has a great laugh . . . and she even gets criticized for that.”

Clinton has been mocked by political opponents and on “Saturday Night Live” as cold, calculating, humorless and maybe a little scary.

Clinton’s history in South Carolina, however, may be unique because it began before she married Bill Clinton and before he was elected governor of Arkansas.

Clinton’s supporters have emphasized this week how she scrounged up a grant to pay her a meager salary after graduating from law school so she could work for the nonprofit Children’s Defense Fund. Part of the work included going undercover to expose segregation policies in schools.

“Public service was in her DNA already,” said Koonce, who first met Hillary Clinton in 1982 when Koonce was growing up in Arkansas. Even then, Koonce said, it was common for people to remark that Hillary, not Bill, should have been running for governor.

“I was so surprised with just how smart and funny she was,” Koonce said. “Unfortunately, the general public doesn’t see that much.”

Koonce, however, said she has seen a rift in the party between younger and older voters. Young voters flocked to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call for a “political revolution.”

“I do see that, the polls are telling us that all the time,” Koonce said.

“Clearly, there are lots of young folks who are excited by what Sen. Sanders is saying and I think that’s great if they wouldn’t have gotten excited before and they’ve come to the political process,” Koonce said.

“But I am confident that by November that we will be able to convince them that if Hillary is the nominee, she is the person they should vote for in their own best interest.”

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