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Five-term Columbia S.C. mayor Bob Coble is working hard to secure some O-love (and O-money) for his city, but it’s increasingly likely that someone else will benefit if the federal dump truck indeed “backs on up” to the Capital City of the Palmetto State.

Specifically, we’re talking about Columbia attorney Steve Benjamin – who sources tell FITS is already raising money to unseat Coble in 2010 and who could benefit from some lofty (and we mean lofty) support.

Who are we referring to?

Well, let’s just say Benjamin was one of President Barack Obama’s most vocal supporters during his 2008 primary victory over Hillary Clinton, which could pay huge dividends in his current campaign.

Coble on the other hand endorsed John Edwards for President, before swinging to Obama when Edwards dropped out of the race.

Not surprisingly, Coble is now scrambling in the wake of the O-wave.

In addition to courting $250 million in bailout cash from Washington, D.C. (i.e. “O-Money”), he has joined USC President Harris Pastides in inviting President Obama to Columbia to participate in a hyrdogen conference in March (i.e. the “O-Love”).

And yes, we have no doubt S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell will also get in on the “O-Love” as well, seeing as hydrogen fuel cell research represents a central cog in his higher ed Pyramid scheme.

Of course as intriguing as the Obama factor is, the race is likely to be decided on much more pressing local issues.

Already dubbed the “Face of the Recession” by the New York Times, Columbia is in turmoil.

Beyond the economic woes, financial mismanagement has cost city taxpayers millions of dollars, and the full extent of the budget mishaps are only now coming to light.

In fact, the simple process of ascertaining just how much money was wasted has cost taxpayers $1.5 million in accounting fees.

Adam Beam at La Socialista (a.k.a. The State newspaper) had an excellent front page feature story on Columbia’s financial problems in yesterday’s paper, while bloggers at the Pulse of Columbia have been following the mess for several months now.

Against such a backdrop, Benjamin would obviously make an attractive candidate.

He ran unsuccessfully for S.C. Attorney General in 2002, but has remained a force in Democratic politics ever since, and by our count would enter the race on equal footing with Coble – if not a bit ahead.

Stay tuned … we don’t typically follow municipal politics in our hometown, but this might be a race worth watching.