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Charleston Mayoral, Council Elections Last Ditch Effort To Preserve Political Representation
10/28/2015 5:05:19 PM

By Barney Blakeney

The Charleston mayoral election has dominated the city’s political atmosphere for months and next week may culminate in the election of the city’s first new mayor in 40 years. With six candidates vying to succeed Mayor Joseph Riley in January the election could be decided in a November 17 runoff.

Though three of the six mayoral candidates are Black, they have not been a major factor as voters choose sides. Distant hopes for success lay in default of other candidates. And although about 23 percent of the city’s total electorate is Black, issues on the campaign trail seldom have reflected what some consider pertinent to the Black community.

Mayoral candidate Toby Smith recently lamented that Black organizations have not sponsored candidate debates to bring those issues to the forefront though Sept. 18 at predominantly Black Burke High School, one forum’s topic was race equity. Of about 30 mayoral candidates forums, only two were sponsored by Black organizations.

While Black candidates face uphill struggles in the mayoral election, two of council’s three Black majority districts have elections November 3. Both James Lewis Jr. in Dist. 3 and Perry Keith Waring in Dist. 7, the only two Black council members up for re-election in November, face opposition.

Lewis’ peninsula district, previously majority Black, has been transformed by gentrification. He faces two challengers who include Jimmy Bailey Jr. and Rasheed Luqman who Lewis defeated four years ago. Lewis said last week he’s confident he can win a fifth term in office because of the solid backing he’s enjoyed from voters in the West Ashley communities of Maryville and Ashleyville.

Waring, whose majority Black West Ashley Dist. 7 includes East Oak Forest, West Oak Forest and Ardmore is banking on his track record to bring his constituents to the polls in his favor against two challengers as well. His challengers are Joe Johnston and Michael Yates.

One downtown businessman said the Charleston municipal elections are extremely important because the Black community is in dire straits on the economic and entrepreneurial fronts. And because what’s being called affordable housing is financially beyond the reach of average Black citizens.

In a community that’s busting at the seams economically, Blacks have no where they fit in, he said. The November 3 Charleston elections are important because Black political representation in the city fast is becoming a thing of the past.

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