The slate is set.
A total of 10 candidates, including three incumbents, have filed to run for three Columbia City Council seats in the Nov. 5 municipal election.
The three seats at play this year are the at-large seat currently held by Howard Duvall, the District 2 seat currently held by Ed McDowell and the District 3 post currently held by Moe Baddourah.
Each incumbent is set to face multiple challengers in the Nov. 5 election. Filing for the city races closed on Sept. 6.
There seems to be much more interest in the municipal races this year than there was two years ago. In the 2017 municipal election, Mayor Steve Benjamin did not draw a challenger, and Council members Tameika Isaac Devine and Sam Davis only drew one challenger apiece.
This year's candidates will vie for leadership positions as Columbians mull some major local developments. The city was plagued by a wave of gunfire this summer. The Columbia Canal is still breached nearly four years after the flood of 2015. The longstanding Five Points nightlife district is in a state of transition as a number of bars have been closed down through the legal machinations of attorney Dick Harpootlian and a band of crusading neighbors. And the city and county are offering big tax breaks for large commercial and residential projects, in hopes of spurring growth.
Duvall is seeking his second term on Council. The former state Municipal Association director was first elected in 2015. He is facing a trio of challengers: attorney and businesswoman Sara Middleton, refugee services coordinator Dylan Gunnels and former victim advocacy coordinator Amadeo Geere. The at-large seat is a citywide seat, meaning the candidates will be vying for votes across Columbia.
McDowell is also seeking his second term on Council. He is facing a pair of contenders: media consultant, activist and author Catherine Fleming Bruce and Governor's Hill resident Anna Fonseca.
District 2 is in the central and northern portions of the city and is highlighted by longstanding, mostly African American neighborhoods such as Martin Luther King, Celia Saxon, Edgewood, Waverly and Booker Washington Heights, among others.
And then there is the race in District 3, where the incumbent Baddourah is facing challenges from educator John Loveday and construction and design firm owner Will Brennan. District 3 runs through central and southeast Columbia and includes neighborhoods like Shandon, Rosewood, University Hill and Wales Garden, among others.
Baddourah, a vocal member of Council who has often been a political antagonist of Benjamin, is seeking his third term in office. It could be an intriguing race for him, considering he spent a good chunk of his current term in a sort of political exile. He was arrested in July 2016 and charged with criminal domestic violence after allegedly hitting his then-wife with a car door in the parking lot of a restaurant. Subsequently, he was suspended from office in March 2017 by Gov. Henry McMaster, and remained suspended for a year and a half while his case was pending in court.
Baddourah entered pre-trial intervention in the case in September 2018, and was reinstated by McMaster in October.