Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg celebrated a re-election win Tuesday night after months of opposition from City Council mayoral hopefuls, including Councilman Mike Seekings, his runoff opponent.
Seekings conceded to Tecklenburg shortly after 8:30 p.m., as early results showed Tecklenburg with a commanding lead of more than 60 percent.
With more than 30 supporters crowded on stage beside him, Tecklenburg said the city's best days are ahead.
"Charleston truly is a holy city," Tecklenburg said. "It is more than a skyline of steeples. It's about the people here, the citizens of our city and aspirations for the future."
Tecklenburg pointed to a number of challenges overcome during his first term, including the peaceful removal of a homeless tent city that popped up as he took office and the police department's first racial bias audit. He noted both reflected the city's championing an attitude of respect toward those disenfranchised and addressing disparities.
"We've acknowledged that we can do better," he said.
Tecklenburg was joined on stage by his wife Sandy and his children, including Joseph who worked on the campaign and welcomed his father onstage with a hug. Among the group of supporters were City Council members-elect Ross Appel and Marie Delcioppo and current members Peter Shahid and Carol Jackson.
As the returns trickled in, his supporters danced, sipped wine and snacked at the Marriott hotel along the Ashley River Tuesday night, the same venue where he celebrated his first election four years ago.
Meanwhile, a few miles away, a smaller group of Seekings supporters gathered inside his Montagu Street home.
Seekings, who still has two years left on his council term, said he wasn't surprised at the outcome, and he said it's now time to end campaigning and time to govern.
"I have a pretty good sense of the city now," he said. “We’re going to make sure every corner of the city is as good as it can be.”
Despite the strains of their recent campaign, Seekings said he looks forward to working with Tecklenburg to tackle the issues they’ve focused on, starting with a Wednesday public meeting about raising the Low Battery.
After calling Tecklenburg and conceding, Seekings joined his guests gathered around his dining room table as they counted their blessings, Thanksgiving-style: passionate voters, unified supporters, and a chance to continue work the next morning.
“This was a very successful campaign for us, for you and for the people of Charleston,” Seekings told them. “Michael,” his mother said, “What mother could be more proud?”
Tecklenburg finished with 61 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.
Tuesday's runoff capped a long, tumultuous year in city politics, as Charleston's first mayor in the post-Joe Riley era tried to do what Riley did so handily: win another term. In fact, with Tecklenburg's win, every Charleston mayor who has sought re-election since 1963 has won.
The race began stirring earlier this year, when several City Council members tested the waters. Councilman Harry Griffin threw his name in the hat but ultimately didn't run. Councilman Gary White made a splashy entrance with public backing from several of his council colleagues, including William Dudley Gregorie, Keith Warring, Kevin Shealy and Bill Moody, as well as former council members.
The mayoral candidates amassed almost $1.7 million in campaign donations altogether ahead of their Nov. 5 race, and they spent it on TV commercials and mailers while also touting their skills and plans on social media.
No one cleared the 50 percent mark on Nov. 5, so the top two, Tecklenburg and Seekings faced off Tuesday. Tecklenburg received almost exactly as many votes Tuesday as he did two weeks earlier, about 12,500, while Seekings fell about 1,000 votes shy of his Nov. 5 tally of almost 9,000. Turnout was down from the 24 percent mark on Nov. 5, possibly because supporters of unsuccessful mayoral candidates didn't vote Tuesday.
Last month, dark money entered the mayoral race, the second time in Charleston's history, with and targeted Tecklenburg's re-election bid through mailers and radio ads.
Meanwhile, Tecklenburg faced opposition inside City Council chambers on many fronts, including a months-long audit of his discretionary spending that found no unethical spending, delayed and deferred votes on projects and funding opportunities.
But in the end, none of that stopped him from winning a second term.
Sara Coello contributed to this report.