SULLIVAN’S ISLAND — Tuesday’s mayoral election results show a sharp political divide among residents who almost re-elected incumbent Carl Smith as a write-in candidate.
In a tight race, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Perkis, the only official candidate for mayor, received 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Smith. Some 56 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
On Wednesday, Perkis said he wants to unite islanders to focus on issues such as a new Town Hall and the accreted beachfront management plan.
He plans to establish a dialogue with the people who voted against him. “I’m going to try to reach out to them. We’re all good people. We have the best interests of the town at heart,” he said.
Smith supporter Barbara Spell said the 427 people who cast a ballot for him also were voting in favor of a controversial referendum on the new elementary school, which at 74,000 square feet would dwarf the old school.
“Islanders are clearly concerned about the size and location of the proposed new school,” she said.
As mayor, Smith cast the lone dissenting vote when Town Council OK’d a land lease with the Charleston County School District for the new school. He supports having a public referendum on the size of the school, an issue that is winding its way through the courts. A judge recently declined to toss out a suit against the town brought by two islanders seeking the referendum.
On election eve, Smith placed the school referendum issue on the agenda for a Town Council meeting. Council took no action on the issue.
The school is set to open in August 2014.
Perkis said the vote for Smith was not solely about the school referendum but also reflected his legacy as a two-term mayor who served on council for more than 20 years.
He said it’s time to put the school issue to rest and move forward.
The old school has been demolished and a foundation is being laid for the new building, he said.
Initially, Smith said he would not seek a third term. Then he agreed to be a write-in candidate when approached by supporters. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Spell said the 30-vote margin of victory for Perkis should be a wake-up call for council because it shows that referendum supporters are not just a vocal minority. Council needs to reach out to the people who backed Smith and his pro-referendum position, she said.
Perkis said the town attorney and outside counsel have advised that the pro-referendum petition presented to council is legally “defective.”
Petition supporters said the document had the required signatures of 15 percent of registered voters and was certified by election officials.