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Columbia SC: “Strong Mayor” Lost?



This website didn’t get too exercised about the city of Columbia, S.C.’s recent election over whether to adopt a “strong mayor” system of government (as opposed to the “council manager” system, in which power is vested in a city council).

We published one article that was critical of the “strong mayor” plan, and one letter to the editor opposing it. And trust us … we were yawning on both occasions.

We opted against wasting energy on the issue because a) there’s more important stuff to cover, b) Columbia, S.C. is hopelessly screwed and c) we were 100 percent sure that “strong mayor” was going to pass in a landslide.

A funny thing happened on Tuesday, though …

By a margin of 57-43 percent, “strong mayor” got trounced by Columbia, S.C. voters – who less than a month ago overwhelmingly reelected its chief proponent, corrupt mayor Steve Benjamin, to a second term in office.

Confusing, right? Right …

What happened?

We’re not sure, exactly …

“Strong mayor” supporters spent more than $500,000 pushing the plan, while opponents spent barely $25,000 (most of it on yard signs Benjamin supporters plucked up almost as soon as they appeared).

“A very strong message has been sent, and now we see so many valleys crossed, friendships and alliances made,” community activist Joe Azar wrote after the votes came in. “We are now truly becoming one people, hand in hand, to create a better city.”

In addition to a stinging defeat for Benjamin, the rejection of “strong mayor” was a defeat for Nikki Haley – who weighed in on its behalf in the waning hours of the election.

It was also a major loss for Columbia’s crony capitalist community and for the consulting empire of Richard Quinn and Associates – both of which were pushing the measure. And let’s not forget the far leftists at The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper, who breathlessly promoted “strong mayor” in numerous editorials and “news” stories.


The “little guys.” Oh, and Eva Moore of The (Columbia, S.C.) Free Times, one of the only investigative print journalists left in the city who did some solid work on the issue.

Again … we didn’t really care much about this issue (our founding editor is likely to move out of Columbia, S.C. in the coming months), but we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t gratifying to watch the city’s entrenched, corrupt establishment suffer a setback.