November 8, 2019
We’ve had an election and the people have spoken! But, what exactly did they say?
Luckily, the 2019 municipal elections across the greater Charleston region offer results to suit a wide range of sweeping editorial declarations. Allow me to illustrate:
2019 was a “change wave” election.
Take the the Town of Mount Pleasant for example. After three current Councilmembers decided not to run for reelection, the voters made the clean sweep official by denying Joe Bustos his reelection bid. By sending four newcomers to council, it is clear the electorate wants a change. Still to be decided is whether they want a change in policy, a change in tone or just a change in faces.
2019 was a “stay-the-course” election.
Just look at North Charleston, where Mayor Summey and 9 out of 10 incumbents won reelection. Voters clearly support the direction of a city government working to revitalize neighborhoods and expand job opportunities. North Charleston reaffirmed its status as the most politically stable jurisdiction in the region.
2019 was a “good vibes” election.
The elections in Summerville make that clear. In what may be history’s most congenial race ever, Ricky Waring defeated Bill Hearn for the open seat of Mayor. Not a negative word was known to be spoken throughout the highly civil campaign.
Only two council seats up for election were contested and the results were a resounding victory for incumbent Bill McIntosh and former Councilman Terry Jenkins, who will return to office by a wide margin. Meanwhile in Dorchester County, referendums to fund parks and libraries each won by healthy 30-point margins.
2019 was a “confused voter” election.
The only clear message this year was uncertainty. Consider the City of Charleston where, despite weeks of heavy rotation television ads and mailers, the electorate could not name a clear winner in the Mayoral race. Mayor Tecklenburg came a few percentage points shy of reaching a majority and now faces a run-off with Councilman Seekings on November 19.
Of the six council seats up for reelection, two incumbents – Keith Waring and Peter Shahid – won easily. Six-term incumbent James Lewis came within a hair of beating four challengers outright, but ultimately missed capturing a majority and is in a run-off with educator and restaurant-owner Jason Sakran.
Three new Council members will be joining the City Council. The Council’s second woman, Marie Delcioppo, won convincingly for the open District 1 seat while Karl Brady and Ross Appel unseated two Council veterans, Councilmen Wagner and Moody, in Districts 5 and 11 respectively.
In the City of Charleston, there is mandate for neither sweeping change nor current direction. The question left unknown is whether Council and whoever the new Mayor is can find a spirit of cooperation necessary to address the key challenges facing the City.
One caveat to remember. When we say “the people have spoken,” it’s more accurate to say approximately 1/5 of registered voters of have spoken. In the City of Charleston, for example, 25,832 people cast ballots in the mayoral race. That’s about 19% of the City’s population… and that was a high turnout affair.
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