Joe Riley isn’t presuming to designate his successor.
At least not until a likely runoff — and maybe not even then.
Riley came to our newspaper Friday as part of a group pitching the WestEdge, formerly the Horizon Project, development (see Page B1). As he was leaving, I asked who would get his vote for mayor.
He replied: “Well, I don’t know. And no one will know that except me and probably my wife on Election Day.”
Huh? Why won’t Riley, known for letting everybody know what he thinks is the best course forward for Charleston, publicly vouch for the candidate he will vote for on Nov. 3?
Riley: “I really think that I’ve had the honor of serving the city for 40 years, and I think the citizens will make a wise decision. It’s wonderful we have so many good people running, and so I feel it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to endorse anyone.”
But the mayor quickly added: “If there’s a runoff, and for some reason I feel like there’s somebody really good and somebody that wouldn’t be good, then maybe that would be an opportunity (to endorse).”
Just be glad that in our self-governing nation, voters — that is, the folks who bother to exercise that fundamental right — still have the opportunity to select their (and your) elected leaders. They also have the opportunity to hear out the pretenders (six so far) to Riley’s throne on an assortment of issues — including the big deal and big buildings of that WestEdge plan.
This changing of the mayoral guard must seem unsettling to many who have grown accustomed to Riley as the face of the Holy City,
However, this will be an orderly, peaceful transfer of authority.
Many other succession crises were not.
King Charles II is our local namesake. The new settlement of Charles Towne was named for him in 1670.
Yet 21 years earlier, Charles II’s dad, King Charles I, was executed during the English Civil War.
Then Oliver Cromwell’s “Roundheads” decisively defeated Charles II’s loyal royalists, aka “Cavaliers” (not to be confused with the Virginia Cavaliers), at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, forcing him to flee the land.
Finally, though, after taking a long and winding road, Charles II, who was still Scotland’s king, got the rightful English crown back in 1660.
Another bloody example of how hard it can be to sort out who’s next:
The 1733-38 War of the Polish Succession, despite its title, was mostly waged in what are now Italy and Germany. And it ended in Austria with the Treaty of Vienna, which affirmed Augustus III as king of Poland while giving his rival, Stanislaw I, the Duchy of Lorraine (that’s in France).
Pop test opening with a more recent Polish link:
1) Name the White House nominee who flunked geopolitics by saying during a presidential debate, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe,” and when pressed to defend that bizarre contention, listed Poland as “independent” and “autonomous.”
2) Name the vice presidents who, while still in that office, lost presidential general elections.
3) Name the vice presidents who, while still in that office, won presidential elections.
4) Name Charleston’s last three mayors before Riley.
1) President Gerald Ford prematurely proclaimed Eastern Europe’s liberation from Soviet domination during the second of his three debates with Jimmy Carter in 1976.
2) John Breckinridge (1860), Richard Nixon (1960), Hubert Humphrey (1968), Al Gore (2000)
3) John Adams (1796), Thomas Jefferson (1800), Martin Van Buren (1836), George H.W. Bush (1988)
4) William McG. Morrison (1947-59), J. Palmer Gaillard Jr. (1959-75), Arthur B. Shirmer (1975).
Show-biz succession plans also can go awry — as demonstrated by CBS’ ill-fated 1965 attempt to replace Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts) with Warren Ferguson (Jack Burns) on “The Andy Griffith Show,” and NBC’s 2009 debacle of initially replacing Jay Leno with Conan O’Brien on “The Tonight Show.”
So root for Charleston’s own Stephen Colbert to fare well as the rising star of CBS’ “The Late Show,” from which David Letterman will take his final bow on May 20.
Colbert’s premiere is set for Sept. 8. The witty 1982 Porter-Gaud grad must shift gears from playing a know-it-all, Bill O’Reilly type, a shtick which made “The Colbert Report” a Comedy Central hit, to being himself.
And the real Colbert, who grew up on James Island, did a really good thing Thursday in Greenville by announcing an $800,000 partnership to fund nearly 1,000 projects at S.C. schools.
And he doesn’t live here now, so he can’t help decide who replaces Riley.
But you Charleston residents can.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.