Municipal elections set for Nov. 2 could bring new leadership on Charleston City Council as it grapples with major infrastructure projects and in Mount Pleasant, where development remains a hot-button issue.
Charleston City Paper asked candidates for office in Charleston, Mount Pleasant and Summerville to complete a short questionnaire about the issues. Those responses and City Paper Editorial Board endorsements are available to read at charlestoncitypaper.com.
Challenges in Charleston
Incumbent Charleston City Councilmen Dudley Gregorie, Kevin Shealy and Mike Seekings are unopposed this year, meaning they’ll return for another four-year term.
Downtown, District 4 Councilman Robert Mitchell faces a challenge from retired marine engineer Tim Weber. Mitchell has represented District 4 since 2002.
A recently retired housing counselor, Mitchell says his constituent services set him apart on council. Being its senior-most member, he says, affords him a greater amount of respect and influence. Recently, he was among the minority of council members who supported a report by the city’s Special Commission on Equity, Inclusion, and Racial Conciliation to root out structural racism in local government.
Weber has put a focus on violent crime at the center of his campaign. An Eastside resident who also owns a handful of rental properties in the area, Weber says stronger local leadership is needed to bring down murder and violent crime figures. Charleston did see an increase in violence over 2020, part of a statewide jump in violent crime.
District 10 Councilman Harry Griffin, who works for a cargo shipping company, is finishing up his first term on council, where he’s been its most critical member. That outspokenness landed Griffin in trouble last year when he initially committed to speak at a protest against city leadership attended by members of the Proud Boys extremist group. Griffin later apologized but was remove from the city’s equity commission. In recent months, he’s remained critical of city COVID-19 protocols and voted with the majority of council against the equity commission report, though he says he agrees with most of its contents.
County public defender Stephen Bowden has cast himself as a new voice for West Ashley residents in District 10. A newcomer to politics, this is Bowden’s first run for political office — same as Griffin four years ago.
Griffin and Bowden largely agree flooding and traffic are among the top issues for District 10, with both candidates saying more projects are needed in West Ashley to mitigate potential flooding disasters. The two diverge slightly on time spent considering the proposed federal project that could build a seawall around parts of downtown, with Griffin calling it a waste of time altogether and Bowden saying less-dramatic measures should be considered.
In District 12, incumbent Councilwoman Carol Jackson, a retired nonprofit executive, is facing local Realtor and teacher Caroline Parker. Again on James Island, flooding remains a leading issue.
In responses to City Paper questionnaires, Jackson and Parker differed in their views on how to deal with impacts of climate change, with Jackson stressing funding as a sticking point and Parker saying political divisions are among chief concerns.
Both candidates said they would work collaboratively to reduce the bickering on council, with challenger Parker pointing the finger back at her opponent. Jackson said she’s been “chagrined” at some council interactions, saying polarizing decisions should not be a reason for disrespect.
Bonus: Charleston City Council district lines will likely change as voting maps are redrawn statewide over the next six months to reflect population changes from the 2020 census. District footprints could shift dramatically, meaning potentially big changes on council in 2023 and 2025.
But this year’s elections proceed with the current districts remaining intact.
Mount Pleasant mayor, council on the ballot
Will Haynie is nearing the end of his first term as Mount Pleasant’s mayor after being swept into office during an anti-incumbent wave election four years ago. Things have settled down a bit since then, but the Charleston suburb that’s grown into one of the state’s biggest cities still has its growing pains.
Haynie, a former radio host, columnist and leader of Lowcountry Land Trust, says traffic and housing affordability are the biggest issues facing Mount Pleasant. Haynie told the City Paper that working with other local leaders to try to protect the town’s “character, charm and environmental health” distinguishes his candidacy for reelection.
Kathy Landing, a financial planner who served one term on Mount Pleasant Town Council and ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District race in 2018, said public-private partnerships are key to unlocking Mount Pleasant’s independent economic vitality — a topic both Haynie also stresses as important.
Brandon Armstrong, who owns a painting business and describes herself as a Constitutional conservative, is also running for mayor, but has maintained a low-profile campaign compared to Haynie and Landing.
Mount Pleasant will also elect four members of town council. Check charlestoncitypaper.com for full responses from participating candidates for that race and others.