Off-year elections in the Charleston area usually only draw a handful of voters every four years, but the issues and the stakes remain no less important. Downtown, east of the Cooper and in Summerville, quality of life concerns and questions about local leadership persist as the areas face down continued development that’s amped up congestion and consternation for residents.
We asked opposed candidates for Charleston City Council, Mount Pleasant mayor as well as Mount Pleasant and Summerville town councils to complete a short questionnaire to get a snapshot of their personalities and policy priorities. (All are available for review online.) Among candidates who completed surveys, we have considered their qualifications and offer these endorsements. Each of these candidates, we believe, reflects local values at this critical time:
Charleston City Council
Members of Charleston City Council have been saddled with challenge after challenge since the last municipal election. Flooding, issues of race and equity, and expensive infrastructure projects were compounded the local impact of the pandemic. Some poor judgment calls and a leadership vacuum on council have left many locals shaking their heads as the city struggles with the pace of change.
Stephen Bowden, an attorney for the county public defender’s office, has a chance to make a day-one contribution on City Council. Immature and reactionary leadership from District 10 has left it adrift for the past four years. Residents deserve a serious councilman. Elect Bowden.
On James Island, Carol Jackson has consistently been one of the most thoughtful and reasonable council members. She deserves another term.
Robert Mitchell has continued his work to shine a light on issues affecting the rapidly changing east side of the downtown peninsula. He should return to council, too.
Three incumbents — Dudley Gregorie, Mike Seekings and Kevin Shealy — are unopposed and will not appear on the ballot. A special election will be held in January to replace recently resigned Councilwoman Marie Delcioppo.
With distractions gone, Charleston council members must now quit their belabored yammering and double down on making progress.
Mount Pleasant mayor, town council
Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie had his work cut out for him after the populist wave in the last local election, and with even more challenges dropped in his lap, he’s done a fine job. He should be reelected and keep his eye on the ball to develop more affordable housing, rein in zealous development and reduce congestion.
Residents can choose up to four council members of Mount Pleasant’s flawed at-large voting system. Incumbents Guang Ming Whitley and Gary Santos should return, along with newcomer Myra Jones.
Summerville Town Council
In Summerville, Councilman Aaron Brown should be reelected to the District 1 seat he’s held since 2005. Russ Touchberry and Kima Garten-Schmidt are unopposed in Districts 3 and 5, respectively.
Some of these local elections only drew a few hundred voters in 2017. Without engaged representation in municipal government, many of the problems you see in your communities will get worse. Each of the Nov. 2 races presents an opportunity for voters to shape the future of their communities.