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Lewis Facing Tough Challenge As Population Shifts Affect Black Council District
10/21/2015 5:32:53 PM

James Lewis

Perry Keith Waring

Jimmy Bailey, Jr.

Rasheed Luqman
By Barney Blakeney

The Charleston mayoral race has overshadowed the city’s council races, but as the number of Black residents continue a steady decline as a result of the gentrification taking place from Johns Island to Daniel Island, representation at the council level still is important.

Only two of council’s three Black majority districts have elections November 3, but West Ashley districts where Blacks represent influential numbers of voters are emerging as new political fronts.

Both James Lewis Jr. in Dist. 3 and Perry Keith Waring in Dist. 7, the only two Black council members up for re-election in November, face significant opposition.

Lewis’ peninsula district, previously majority Black, has been transformed by gentrification. The midtown district that spans from Racliffe Street north to Grove Street between Rutledge and King streets has a new racial demographic. That demographic has spawned Lewis’ toughest opposition in recent years. He faces two challengers who include Jimmy Bailey Jr. and Rasheed Luqman who Lewis defeated four years ago.

Lewis said he’s undaunted by a new electorate and finds confidence in the solid backing he’s enjoyed from voters in the West Ashley communities of Maryville and Ashleyville. Both were added to his Dist. 3 constituency in the last redistricting alignment.

Waring, whose solid majority Black Dist. 7 includes East Oak Forest, West Oak Forest and Ardmore is banking on his track record of results oriented representation to bring his constituents to the polls in his favor against two challengers as well.

With only five Blacks among council’s 12-member body, losing either incumbent could mean a radical shift in the numbers game when it comes to leveraging votes on issues that concern Black constituents.

But as the city’s Black population shifted to districts West of the Ashley River, minority voters gained influence. That strength catapulted Dist. 2 Councilman Rodney Williams into office in 2014. This November Black voters have the opportunity to significantly affect elections in districts 9 and 11 where incumbents Aubry Alexander and Bill Moody respectively, are facing one challenger each.

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