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CHANGE AHEAD?

We moved our headquarters out of the city of Columbia, South Carolina a few years ago – and we’ve never regretted that decision.  We believe South Carolina’s capital city to be among the most corrupt and poorly managed municipalities in the Palmetto State … not to mention among the least friendly to taxpayers.

Exhibit A?  The Bull Street redevelopment project – an ongoing “economic development” project that has failed miserably to live up to its promises after draining tens of millions of dollars from city taxpayers.

Sound familiar?  It should.

This latest crony capitalist cash vacuum comes at a time when core functions of city government are being neglected, too – especially in impoverished areas that need them the most.

Nonetheless, Bull Street continues to be touted as the signature “accomplishment” of Columbia, S.C. mayor Steve Benjamin – who has been breathlessly promoting its economic benefits (along with the city’s sycophantic mainstream media outlets).

Unfortunately, these benefits have yet to materialize.

Now Benjamin and his cronies on city council are facing fresh electoral challenges – which could portend real change in city government.

Sam Davis, the longest serving member of Columbia’s city council, is up for re-election this fall.  Davis represents the city’s first district – which includes Elmwood Park and stretches north to Interstate 20.

Davis has been on city council since 1998 and has never had very strong opposition for his seat – which is home to some of Columbia’s poorest and most crime-ridden areas.

What do the citizens of Davis’ district have to show for their ongoing support of his “public service?”  Not much – at least not beyond dilapidated and abandoned housing complexes and an elevated crime rate.

Despite failing to produce the progress he has consistently promised, we expect the city’s black leadership – including Benjamin and influential congressman Jim Clyburn – to come out strong for Davis.  Why do they care about his future?  Because he is a pocket vote for Benjamin.  Davis supported the Bull Street project – and has voted for almost twenty years to underfund the city’s water and sewer infrastructure (while at the same time raising rates and siphoning off money for special projects).

Just this month Davis voted again to increase taxes and fees on city residents.

Without Davis on city council, Benjamin would lose his pocket vote and find himself compelled to justify his wasteful projects, sources close to council tell us.

Challenging Davis this fall is Chris Sullivan, a young, black business owner who has been extremely active volunteering his time in the community.  Sullivan has strong contacts among local business owners as well as close ties to the local chamber of commerce and the University of South Carolina.

“Look for the older establishment blacks to support Sam, with a few defections, and look for the younger crowd and the anti-establishment blacks to support Chris,” one veteran city observer told us.

City elections are usually low turnout affairs – with less than one in five eligible voters participating.  So these elections really become turnout drills for each candidate.  Based on prior results, we suspect the winning candidate in this race will draw anywhere between 2,500 and 3,000 votes.

Davis has a head start on the fundraising front after former Columbia mayor Bob Coble hosted an event for him at the law firm of Nexsen Pruet, where Coble works.  Sullivan is expected to kick off his fundraising effort soon.

We will be keeping a very close eye on this race given its potential to tip the balance of power on city council …


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