By Barney Blakeney
As time closes in on the November 5 North Charleston municipal elections a lot of voters still are trying to discern among the candidates in the mayoral election. Beyond questions about who are the individuals who make up the field of five candidates, two of the questions often asked concern the two African Americans vying for the office and whether there should be a realistic expectation that incumbent Mayor Keith Summey will be unseated.
The field includes incumbent Mayor Keith Summey and challengers Thomas Dixon, Floyd Dotter, Ashley Peele and John Singletary. Dixon is one of two African Americans in the race. He lost a 2016 bid to unseat Sen. Tim Scott in 2016, but has distinguished himself as a community activist. Dotter is a Citadel Grad who is a familiar face in local political circles although he never has run for office himself. Peele also is new as a political candidate. She’s the only female in the race. Singletary, the other African American in the race, ran against Summey for the office in 2015. Summey won that race by a wide margin, but Singletary was the next highest vote-getter.
While North Charleston has emerged to become one of the state’s premier cities with its highest retail sales revenue, economic disparities among minority communities are glaring. All the candidates agree economic and educational inequalities besmirch the Summey administration. That in the past however, has not prompted change.
In the city where about half its approximately 100,000 citizens are Black fewer than 30 percent of the 54,000 registered voters cast ballots. Summey has won each of his previous elections over the past 20 years with about 5,000 votes. One question often asked is why two African American candidates risk splitting the Black vote that so obviously has the potential to change the administration.
According to one source, that concern was posed to the two Black candidates. “Everybody has the right to run, but with two Blacks in the race, that will split the vote,” he said. So in answer to the second often asked concern – should voters expect Summey will be unseated – reason and history indicates he won’t.