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Mayoral Election

Mayor Riley to “Citizens for a Better Charleston” – Thanks
“Overwhelming” support for Mayor from “South of Broad" and Ansonborough

Warwick Jones

The election results for the City of Charleston were a surprise. That Joe Riley won was not, but that he won so handsomely was. Many of us, perhaps even most of us, expected a run off. The polls we saw before the election had Riley ahead of his main opponent, Council member Dudley Gregorie by only a few percentage points. The other contenders were well behind but with percentages that would have denied either Riley or Gregorie an outright majority. As we all now know, Mayor Riley romped in with 67% of the total, well ahead of Gregorie’s 27% and Farrow’s 3%.

With some decades of experience and a record full of accomplishments, voters clearly saw Riley as the better candidate. His opponents pointed to the flooding of the cross town and the large expenditure on the Gaillard Auditorium as failures or shortcomings of his administration. What weight this carried in voters’ minds is debatable. But it was not enough to convince the majority of citizens that they should take a chance and elect somebody else to lead the City. We also think that the efforts of Citizens for a Better Charleston may well have set back Candidate Gregorie’s prospects rather than enhanced them. Its mailings may have caused some citizens to vote for the candidate, but many were turned off (including this writer) by the content and the refusal of the group to disclose its funding and sources. It is widely believed that the those behind group are opposed to the City's policy on cruise ships and that some/many in the group live South of Broad.

Cruise ships may not have been the defining issue in this election, but in an indirect way, they were. The Mayor’s victory speech to supporters drew frequently on the phrase “Cruising to victory” so the issue was prominently on his mind. It was also prominent on the minds of some residents of the downtown precincts whose Neighborhood Associations have joined a law suit to force the city inter alia to codify limits on cruise ships and passenger numbers. But the issue probably never crossed either the Ashley or Cooper Rivers, at least not until “The Citizens for a Better Charleston” got active. We suspect the reaction in these reaches of the City was hostile to both the organization and what it was saying. It heightened the fear that Riley’s tenure may be threatened and it brought out more voters for Riley than for Gregorie.

For us, the biggest surprise of the election was the results for Precincts Charleston 1, 2, 3 and 7. The first three represent essentially the area “South of Broad" and the last, Ansonborough. The neighborhood associations representing these two areas have opposed the City policy on cruise ships and claimed “overwhelming” votes from members in support of their opposition. We saw more “Gregorie” signs in Ansonborough than in any other except in the Upper Peninsula and areas of James and Johns Island. We thought there would be at least a strong showing, and possibly a victory for Gregorie in both areas. How wrong we were!

There was a 38% combined voter turnout for Precincts 1, 2 and 3. A total of 1026 votes were cast in these precincts of which 683 were for Riley – over 66% of the total.

In Precinct 7, 194 votes were cast and 68% were for Riley. It would not be fair to say that the percentage truly represents the view of the neighborhood. A portion of the neighborhood is included in Precinct 6 and the western boundary of Precinct 7 extends to Smith Street well beyond the boundary of the Borough. But does it really make a difference? The vote for Riley in Precinct 6 was 67%, only slightly lower than in Precinct 7.

In the light of the election results, it is reasonable to ask as to whether the views of the Associations representing South of Broad and Ansonborough, truly represent the views of the neighborhoods.

Some other observations.

Candidate Gregortie did carry some precincts - on the Upper Peninsula, Johns Island and James Island. All had strong African American representation. Turnout was mixed, less than 10% in two precincts but over 20% in another two.

Riley did particularly well in some precincts on James Island and St Andrews with counts above 80%. He did extremely well in Daniel Island where he received 89% of the vote in Precinct I and 83% in Precinct II.

Viewers can see the result of each precinct and for other municipalities by pressing here

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