By Barney Blakeney
For the African American community, the November 5 Charleston mayoral election may seem more impactful. Though the mayoral race may seem more prominent, the impact of the council races will be pivotal. Representatives for two of the council’s four majority Black council districts will be elected – Dist. 3 on the peninsula and West Ashley held by incumbent James Lewis and Dist. 7 West Ashley held by incumbent Perry Keith Waring.
In 1976, more than half the city’s population was Black. African Americans held half the city’s 12 council seats. Today about 26 percent of the city’s population is Black and only four of council’s 12 members are Black. After the 2020 census is taken next year, those numbers likely will decline even more. The next council elections will occur in 2021 – Dist. 4, held by incumbent Robert Mitchell and Dist. 6, held by incumbent William Dudley Gregorie will be decided. It’s important to note Gregorie two years ago was elected in Dist. 6 which already was majority white.
In their races for re-election majority Black district incumbents James Lewis in Dist. 3 and Perry Keith Waring in Dist. 7 emphasize the African American presence on council has had a significant impact. Waring said it’s made a difference in funding that comes to Black communities. Lewis said it’s made a difference in voicing issues sensitive to the Black community.
However, the hands of time have painted an intriguing scenario. Despite having half the clout on council beginning in 1976, the displacement of Black residents was consistent over decades as Black constituents fought for economic inclusion as well. Will holding on to two seats for at least two more years make a significant difference in the changing dynamics that is Charleston politics? Time and voters will tell.
These are the candidates vying for seats on Charleston City Council November 5:
City Council District 1; Marie Delcioppo and Angela Black Drake
City Council District 3; Robert Cason Gaither, James Lewis, Jr., Luqman S. Rasheed, Jason A. Sakran and Jason F. Taylor
City Council District 5; Karl Lee Brady, Jr. and Marvin D. Wagner
City Council District 7; Christian King and Perry Keith Waring
City Council District 9; Brett Barry, Albert Peter Shahid, Jr. and Leah A. Whatley
City Council District 11; Ross Appel and William A. Moody, Jr.