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Apathy Marks North Charleston Mayoral Election
10/9/2015 10:32:11 AM

Keith Summey

Chris Collins
By Barney Blakeney

The North Charleston mayoral election to be held in just four weeks continues to be marked by apathy as four-term Mayor Keith Summey prepares to cruise to another victory.

“Summey has his people”, “Summey’s got it wrapped”, “Three Blacks against the incumbent insures that none of the Black candidates can win” were just some of the comments received when some residents of North Charleston were asked what they think about the November 3 mayoral election.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey is seeking a fifth term to lead the state’s third largest city where nearly half its residents are Black. Though North Charleston is among the fastest growing municipalities and has the state’s highest grossing retail economy, amid the affluence and industrial development its Black community suffers high crime and minimal economic development.

Summey’s administration has created a diamond in the rough from the lump of industrial coal that traditionally has characterized the city. Christopher Collins, John Singletary and Clifford Smith are trying to unseat Summey whose transformational administration is defining a New North Charleston. But despite the neglect Summey’s administration has exemplified in Black communities, apathy reigns among many Black voters. Summey beat Collins in the 2011 mayoral election by nearly 4,000 votes.

“I’m not focused on the mayor’s race,” said one resident, who himself is a former candidate for public office. “Summey’s got his people,” the resident said implying a resonate theme that the incumbent has maintained a corps of influential community leaders loyal to him.

On the southern end of the city where Blacks comprise the vast majority of the population, a Union Heights residents said, “Summey’s coming back. He’s got it wrapped. He ain’t worried.”

In a city of over 90,000 people where fewer than 8,000 cast ballots in mayoral elections Summey typically receives some 5,000 votes. The city has some 43,000 registered voters with about 25,000 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.

One observer noted that with three Black challengers in the race, despite heated opposition from Singletary who leads as the front runner among the contenders, chances of defeating Summey are remote. Based on past Black voter participation splitting the Black vote is tantamount to a Summey victory, he said.

While some continually ask why two of the three Black candidates - Collins and Smith - are in the race, Summey at a recent candidate forum dismissed detractors telling critics to vote for another candidate if they are dissatisfied with his administration.

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