North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey vowed that there would be no slowing down as he breezed to a convincing win and a sixth term Tuesday.
Summey, 64, who said he plans to seek one more term four years from now, said there are a number of unfinished projects to address, but that he expects the long-awaited promise of privately run casino boats sailing from the city's Cooper River waterfront to materialize, he hoped, in the next few months. And while many pundits think Summey's choice as the next mayor will be his politician son -- Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey -- the mayor said he's going to take his time and review his options for grooming a successor he can back in 2019. He envisions someone who "can take North Charleston in the direction we've tried to take it," he said, but was not ready to list some of the possible contenders. Summey blew past challenger Chris Collins, vice chairman of the Charleston County School Board, early in a race that never was close. With 50 of 52 citywide precincts reporting, Summey led Collins by a 78 percent to 22 percent, according to unofficial results. Faced with the loss, Collins, 47, said he still plans to be a political voice in the city by advocating for the homeless and speaking out against what he said is an overly aggressive police department. "You learn what the concerns are of the people in the city," Collins said of his campaign. "You hear what they are happy about, and what they are unhappy about."
The North Charleston turnout also seemed higher than in previous years, boosted by a change to move the city elections to November from June, along with several highly competitive City Council races in eight of the city's 10 representative districts. Exit polling showed that city voters favored Summey's performance and longevity (he's been mayor since 1994), and had concerns about Collins' unfamiliarity with City Hall, in wanting to keep the status quo. "He's done a lot for the city and he's fighting the rail," said Summey supporter Peter Scala, who lives in the Park Circle area and opposes the state's plan to use rail lines through the northern end of the city to reach a new port terminal under construction at the south end. Scala's wife, Pat Buckley, echoed her husband, saying Collins would have represented a gap in City Hall continuity with a high learning curve. North Charleston "needs someone familiar with what's going on in the whole city," she said. Summey said he wanted to get the casino boats moving because the city needs the revenue from fees and other licenses to begin fixing up community centers. The boats were made legal by City Council a year ago, but none of the various investors who have tried to launch an offshore casino tour have made it to fruition in the current down economy.