Mount Pleasant politicians poised to make noise
MOUNT PLEASANT — The state’s fourth-largest municipality will soon undergo its second political sea change in four years, with a new mayor and about half of its council turning over.
So far, though, you’d hardly notice that it’s political season. With the exception of a few yard signs, websites and ads in the Moutrie News, the town’s campaign season has been a sleepy one.
Mount Pleasant candidates
C. Carl Carroll Jr.
George A. Freeman
Linda G. Page
Town Council (4 seats)
Elton Carrier (i)
Paul S. Gawrych
WaterWorks (2 seats)
Rick Crosby (i)
*(i) denotes incumbent
That will begin to change this week as the five mayoral candidates mingle with business leaders Tuesday and then meet for their first public forum Thursday. Town voters go to the polls Nov. 5.
While there has been little public campaigning, there has been some drama behind the scenes.
Town Councilwoman Linda Page, who is vying to succeed Mayor Billy Swails, has had to grapple with a family tragedy — a severe spinal injury to her 32-year-old son last month — just as her campaign was gearing up.
Former councilman and mayoral rival Joe Bustos fired an early salvo with an ad accusing Page of once saying, “I can’t tell a developer ‘no,’” a quote that Page denies saying.
Meanwhile, Councilman and mayoral hopeful Ken Glasson said he hopes to marshal the town’s tea partiers, members of the 9-12 group and Libertarians to win. “They’re very familiar with me, and I have a very consistent conservative record of voting, more so than any other candidate with a voting record.”
Mayoral hopeful George Freeman, a real estate agent, said he has been puzzled over how little campaigning has occurred. “I thought for sure with me running for mayor, there would be much more hype going than this,” he said. “This is the quietest election I’ve ever seen.”
Mayoral candidate C. Carl Carroll Jr., a political newcomer and owner of Crazy Carl Cab Service, has what surely must be one of the most unique campaign themes in the town’s political history.
“I take care of Mount Pleasant at night, with all the intoxicated people taking them home,” he said. “I figure if I do all that at night I can baby-sit the rest of them during the daytime.”
What’s up for grabs
The town’s roughly 55,000 voters will decide who succeeds Swails, who had indicated he would seek a second four-year term but changed his mind this summer.
Unlike the mayoral posts in Charleston and North Charleston, Mount Pleasant’s mayor is a part-time position and essentially serves as chairman of the nine-member council while the town administrator runs things day to day. The post pays $24,000 a year.
Voters also will choose among eight candidates for four Town Council seats, and Councilman Elton Carrier is the only incumbent among them. Councilman John Burn is one of four candidates seeking two seats up for grabs on the Waterworks Commission.
Page is considered a favorite because she was the top vote-getter in the 19-way council race four years ago. She also has the backing of Swails and all of her council colleagues except Glasson.
Page said she is ignoring such talk and taking the advice of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond to “run scared.”
On Sept. 26 her son Andy Parker suffered severe spinal damage and internal organ damage while working on a tree. He still grapples with some paralysis in his lower limbs.
“I’m a very strong woman, and I’ve been a single parent for many years,” she said. “I was devastated by my son’s injury, but it didn’t change my goal of becoming the mayor of the town of Mount Pleasant.”
Carroll said he once thought he could win but has changed his mind. “I think Linda is going to walk over everybody. Everybody has that consensus.”
Not quite everybody. Bustos, who got 33 percent of the mayoral vote in 2009, noted that he received about as many total votes in that election as Page did. He said his positions — to open up town government by holding fewer closed sessions and to stop work on a new town hall — will set him apart.
Bustos noted he chaired several committees during his nine years on Town Council. “I am by far the most experienced candidate for mayor.”
Freeman, who serves on the Charleston County Planning Commission, said he is the only candidate who understands the link between transportation and land use. He said the town has erred by not requiring roads in different developments to connect with each other.
“They’re still stuck on this thing about widening roads,” he said.
Glasson said his 38-year record of government service in the military and on Town Council make him the most experienced candidate in the race, “and my campaign has been about how experience does matter.”
Unlike 2009, when Swails won outright with 45 percent of the vote, a candidate now must get more than 50 percent of the vote Nov. 5. If not, the top two vote-getters will compete in a runoff election two weeks later.
“Our goal is just to make it to the runoff,” Glasson said, “and I would see Linda as the other person being in that runoff.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.