What if Charleston's next mayor came from "off" the downtown peninsula?

Or, how prepared will he or she be to handle a large-scale hurricane evacuation? Even more curious: What if the next mayor manages to stay in office for decades to come, just as Mayor Joe Riley has done?

With two years left in what Riley says is his 10th and final term, jockeying is underway to become his successor. There could be more than a dozen hopefuls filing for the job, with early estimates running as much as $1 million needed to wage a credible campaign.

And don't be naive. Though city elections officially are nonpartisan, Democrats and Republicans will try to influence who the next mayor will be, as well as local preservation and conservation groups, developers and hoteliers, the food and beverage crowd, and those seated on both sides of the extremely divisive cruise ship debate.

Just as important: Who will Charleston's black population get behind as gentrification continues to change the face of the historic city amid the expanse of hotels, businesses and apartments that are squeezing into previously blighted areas?

The mayoral election is in November 2015. Riley said he does not plan to endorse a successor - unless he finds there's an overriding reason. Being mayor is a full-time job that pays $162,815.90 a year and involves leading the state's second-largest city, one with more than 125,000 residents and with a $172 million annual budget.

Several potential candidates have already stepped up, representing a wide range of experience and interests. That list is only likely to grow. See how it's shaping up on Page A7.

City Councilman Aubry Alexander

Has represented District 9 covering West Ashley and around Charles Towne Landing since 2008. Alexander likely would have to surrender his City Council seat to run since it is up in two years as well.

Former state Rep. Jimmy Bailey

Challenged Riley in 2003 but lost in what was then the city's first nonpartisan election. Appointed chairman of the city's 10,000 Trees in Charleston initiative by Riley. Bailey said the idea of running for mayor is "percolating."

Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon

Has represented West Ashley on council since 2005. Condon said she's been encouraged to run but has not done much about it. "If I were truly committed to this race, I would have started raising money already."

Restaurant developer Dick Elliott

Operates some of the area's more popular restaurants as president and founder of Maverick Southern Kitchens. "I really haven't done anything except listen," he said. Elliott has a background that includes journalism, law and manufacturing.

State Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston

Served 11 years on City Council before moving to the state House of Representatives in 2008. He's part of the "Project Cool Breeze" effort aimed at providing fans and air conditioners to those without in summertime.

City Councilman William Dudley Gregorie

Unsuccessfully ran for mayor two and six years ago and was widely viewed as the choice of shadow groups and residents critical of Riley. Currently the city's mayor pro tempore. "Considering; nothing definite," he said.

Businesswoman Linda Ketner

Ran a close race for Charleston's seat in Congress as a Democrat in 2008. "I am considering it," she said, "but it's two years off."

Contractor Marc Knapp

A staple at City Council meetings, Knapp routinely rises during public input sessions to speak his mind on what's wrong with city government. Ran for mayor twice before but now thinks Riley won't leave office. "We're all of the same opinion that Joe ain't gonna quit," he said.

State Rep. Chip Limehouse

A Republican who has served 18 years in the General Assembly. He's up for re-election this year. Called the Charleston mayor's job "probably one of the best offices in the state."

City Councilman Dean Riegel

The first to officially confirm he's in the race with an announcement in the fall. Riegel, however, has not started fundraising. State ethics rules require filing an initial disclosure report within 10 days of spending or receiving the first $500 in campaign funds.

City Councilman Mike Seekings

Represents the central tourism neighborhoods downtown and is seen as an advocate for alternative transportation such as buses, bikes and skateboards. "It's a long way off; it's certainly something were going to look at."

State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston

Said he is interested but is concentrating on his Statehouse re-election bid this spring. Being mayor would be "a great job and a great opportunity," he said.

John Tecklenburg

Now works in commercial real estate but previously worked for Riley and on his past campaigns. Been out of city government since 2000. "It caught my interest again," he said. "I'm very interested in the job of mayor of Charleston."

Attorney Paul Tinkler

Served on City Council from 1998-2007, a Democrat who ran in a largely GOP area in West Ashley. He recently ran and lost against Paul Thurmond in the special District 41 Senate race.