LOW-TURNOUT AFFAIR LEADS TO TWO KEY RUNOFF RACES
|| By TAYLOR BROWN || This year’s city of Columbia, S.C. municipal election was a (very) low turnout affair, as predicted, with less than thirteen percent of voters bothering to go to the polls – abysmal. The conventional wisdom prevailed in the at-large race with the liberal establishment candidate Howard Duvall headed to a runoff in two weeks against Andy Smith, the hand-picked candidate of embattled mayor Steve Benjamin.
The real story of this week’s voting would appear to be Benjamin’s weakness among black voters. In the city’s second district race, newcomer Reverend Ed McDowell edged out Benjamin’s hand-picked candidate, Aaron Bishop. These two are also headed to a runoff.
Readers may remember Benjamin’s cabal pulled a surprise annexation of Bishop’s house earlier this year in an effort to keep this vote in the mayor’s pocket. Personally I like Bishop, but I do not think he would be an objective voice on council.
City insiders say much of the angst in the black community stems from the thuggish behavior of the mayor. Furthermore, rumors of marital problems between Benjamin and his wife, judge DeAndrea Gist Benjamin, over his involvement in “Stripper-gate” have not helped his standing in the community.
Never mind the fact Benjamin seems unable to keep a job, or that he and his cronies on council gave him a taxpayer supported raise (to $75,000 annually) to serve as our part-time mayor.
If Duvall and McDowell win their respective runoffs, Benjamin would not have the votes to push through his shady last minute deals. The voting block of Leona Plaugh, Moe Baddourah, Duvall and McDowell would be able to set and control the council’s agenda. Benjamin would be reduced to relying on the ethically challenged council members Tameika Isaac Devine and the ever clueless Sam Davis as his base votes – and then try to pick up a vote from one of his other members.
Expect Benjamin to go “all out” in the next two weeks for his newest toadies. Otherwise he risks being reduced to a figurehead.
My takeaway? The citizens of South Carolina’s capital city have the opportunity to retake control in two weeks time. Do the voters have the guts to do it? Although I NEVER pull for the Clemson Tigers, the voters of Columbia should take some advice from Tigers’s head coach Dabo Swinney and BYOG – bring your own guts – to the runoff election.
As much as it makes me ill to say it, that philosophy has made Clemson the No. 1 football team in America.
My preferred candidate Joe Azar did not make it into the runoff. I supported Joe because he has a vision for our city and refuses to play political games with city resources. He would have also been a perpetual thorn in the side of Benjamin and company.
None too excitedly, I will support Duvall and hope he does not engage in the type of underhanded behind the scenes dealings that characterized his patron Kit Smith‘s time on Richland County Council.
I am also pulling hard for Rev. McDowell to win and be voice for open and honest government on council.
Taylor Brown is a 20-something Wofford College graduate who somehow got sucked into politics at an early age. She is easily won over with Rush’s fast food, wine, and spirited political arguments.