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Black Churches Key To Electing Black Mayor In North Charleston
5/13/2015 3:44:05 PM

Chris Collins

John Singletary

Clifford Smith
By Barney Blakeney

Three Black candidates are vying for Mayor of North Charleston in the Nov. 3 general election. They are Rev. Chris Collins, John Singletary and Clifford Smith. They will face incumbent Keith Summey. According to Singletary, splitting the Black vote in the majority Black city may not be as much of a factor as some predict.

Singletary says if North Charleston’s majority Black population of voters go to the polls Nov. 3 they can change an administration that has developed the state’s highest grossing retail sales market while ignoring Black business development. North Charleston also has the state’s highest percentage Black population among major cities with nearly 50 percent of Black residents. The city has a 38 percent white population with a growing 12 percent Hispanic population.

Summey’s 20-year administration has been maintained with only about 6,000 votes each election cycle. The city has some 53,000 registered voters with about 30,000 registered Black voters. Summey has beat off Black opposition in several elections with a highly effective campaign machine that incorporates pivotal Black church leadership in the city. But that Black church leadership also can be used to elect a Black mayor who may be more sensitive to the needs of Black citizens, Singletary says.

Singletary notes that while Black business is almost non-existent in North Charleston, a pattern of gentrification is emerging that also may displace Black residents. Residential development in the city emphasizes middle class high density units unaffordable to the city’s Black population, he said. The city’s Black residency is being methodically reduced as diversity in contract awards and employment remains minimal, he said.

The city’s Black churches have been critical in the perpetuation of Summey’s administration. But they can provide the margin of victory in an upset that would guarantee more educational and economic resources to Black communities as well, Singletary said.

He noted in a city where Blacks are the majority population, there are several city departments - purchasing, personnel, legal, parking fund and weed and seed - in which no Blacks are employed. Most Blacks are employed in public works and the recreation department. About 25 percent of the police and fire department employees are Black. Some 400 of the city’s 431 Black employees are employed in four departments - public works (1152), recreation (91), police ((89) and fire (52).

Politically Blacks in North Charleston have the ability to elect an administration that will empower Black citizens, Singletary said. Voter apathy that has resulted in only three Black representatives in the city’s five majority Black city council districts can be overcome through an intense process of voter education that begins in Black churches, he says.

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