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Tecklenburg Wins Runoff - Where Is The Black Agenda?
11/18/2015 4:07:49 PM

John Tecklenburg

James Lewis
By Barney Blakeney

Charleston voters Tuesday elected a new mayor for the first time in 40 years. 

Businessman and former Charleston Economic Development Department Director John Tecklenburg outdistanced S.C. State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis to win the runoff election. Tecklenburg won the election with nearly 60 percent of the approximately 23,000 votes cast.

Tecklenburg and Stavrinakis emerged from the Nov. 3 municipal elections as the two top vote-getters in a six-way race to become the city’s first new mayor since Joseph Riley was elected in 1975.

Rounding out the field were another Riley associate, Ginny Deerin, Charleston Councilman William Dudley Gregorie, former Charleston Councilman Maurice Washington and political neophyte Toby Smith. Gregorie, Smith and Washington all are African American. The city’s population is about 28 percent Black.

The quest to become Charleston’s mayor was a yearlong struggle that held as primary issues automobile traffic, transportation infrastructure and continued growth and development. Conspicuously absent in the conversation over platform issues were those that specifically addressed concerns of the city’s Black citizens.

Gregorie, who has two years remaining to fill his city council seat, said he is looking forward to working with Tecklenburg as well as Charleston Council Dist. 3 incumbent James Lewis, who won his runoff election against Jimmy Bailey Jr. by only about 10 percentage points.

“I’m happy Lewis pulled off his election because we need his presence,” Gregorie said. “With a new mayor, the more experience we have on council, the better.”

Gregorie pointed out that neither of the three African American mayoral candidates endorsed either Tecklenburg or Stavrinakis. “That sends a message,” he said. It’s important to note the campaigns to become Charleston’s mayor was devoid of any conversation around race in the city, Gregorie said.

“We need to look at the impact the election of a new mayor will have on an African American agenda. We heard nothing about such an agenda from either of the candidates so I really don’t know if they have one. We’re going to have to look at the new mayor and insure that he does,” Gregorie said.

That agenda should include issues such as jobs creation, increasing the city’s minimum wage, more opportunities for housing and education initiatives that focus on preparing high school graduates for the technology-based jobs coming to the area.

“I’m hoping the new mayor and council will focus on the racial inequities that exist in the city,” Gregorie said.

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