COLUMBIA — Moe Baddourah, a former Columbia city councilman who lost a re-election bid after 19-month suspension from office, will run for mayor this fall.
Baddourah will make a formal announcement later Aug. 12 at Columbia City Hall to become to the fourth candidate trying to succeed Steve Benjamin.
“Since leaving office in 2019, I have united with my neighbors in weathering the pandemic, have re-invested in my community by opening a new restaurant and creating local jobs, while continuing to look after family and friends," he said in a statement. "These are difficult times and now, more than ever, Columbia needs experienced leadership in city government."
Baddourah, who has owned restaurants and is a nephew to the late famed Columbia restaurateur Andy Schlon of Andy's Deli, served on council representing a district that includes Five Points, Shandon and Hampton Old Woodlands from 2012 to 2019.
Baddourah ran for mayor in 2013 but lost to Benjamin, who won a second term.
He was suspended from office by S.C. Gov Henry McMaster from March 2017 to October 2018 after his indictment on a 2016 arrest on criminal domestic violence charges stemming from an altercation with his then-wife in a restaurant parking lot.
The charges were settled after Baddourah entered pre-trial intervention, and he was reinstated to office. But he lost his seat in the 2019 council election to businessman Will Brennan.
He lost a S.C. Supreme Court case arguing that the governor did not have the authority to suspend him because he was exempted as a member of the legislative branch.
Despite the troubled recent history, Baddourah said supporters began encouraging him to run as early as March and that he's an outspoken alternative to the candidates already running.
"Many will bring my personal life to muddy our campaign," Baddourah said during a news conference Aug. 12 after filing at City Hall. "It is not a secret that my divorce was contentious, but my boys and I have suffered enough. My campaign will be positive and focused on the way to improve our city."
Baddourah said he would work to fight local government corruption by establishing a task force and expand public safety, and eliminate business license fees for small business and back tax incentives to lure businesses. He also vowed to freeze water rate hikes and to improve water and sewer infrastructure.
He will join at least three other candidates in running to succeed Benjamin, who is not seeking a fourth term as mayor: current council members Tameika Isaac Devine and Daniel Rickenmann, and former mayoral aide Sam Johnson.
All three have formally filed for office. Filing for the city election ends noon Aug. 13.