Charleston voters in some downtown and West Ashley neighborhoods will return to the polls Tuesday and either reelect City Council's longest serving member or decide it's time for a change.
On Nov. 5, City Councilman James Lewis fell just short of receiving the necessary votes to win another four-year term representing District 3. He faces challenger Jason Sakran in the runoff.
Lewis received 48 percent, while Sakran received 40 percent. Three other candidates split the rest.
Lewis is a longstanding fixture for City Council. Sakran entered the race to be a new voice to reflect a changing area of the city.
Lewis feels the majority of people in the district should know him: He has been on council 23 years and attends all the neighborhood association meetings he can.
But District 3 also covers some of the most rapidly changing neighborhoods on the Charleston peninsula, as well as a slice of West Ashley near the Ashley River.
"Everyone's been talking about flooding, but we've had the issue for the last 15 years," Lewis said. "We're going to be doing something with Huger and King streets beginning next year."
Lewis pointed to the recent increase to city employee wages to $12 an hour and that he eventually wants those wages to go to $15 an hour. Lewis also said he's a candidate who grew up here, he's a servant at his church and worked at a local grocery store for years.
"I worked at the Meeting Street Piggly Wiggly for 42 years. They still call me 'Mr. Piggly Wiggly' because I treated them right when they came in the store," Lewis said. "That distinguishes me — I've been out there, I've been in the public space for years."
If reelected, Lewis said he wants the city to reevaluate the runoff rule, which requires candidates to secure just over 50 percent of the vote to be elected. He said people don't know much about the runoff races. Lewis has two field coordinators, a campaign chair and some volunteers — including his brother — helping in the crunch of two weeks of campaigning.
Sakran said he's running to offer a new vision for the district and the city in an area that has seen changing demographics as a new voice to address issues like affordable housing, gentrification and economic opportunities "critically important to help unite the district around a few key issues."
He lived in Charleston in 2001, moved to Washington, D.C., in 2006 and back to Charleston in 2009. He works for the Charleston County School District as the director of Expanded Learning in its Kaleidoscope program. He also co-owns the Asian restaurants Bon Banh Mi on Spring Street and in Mount Pleasant.
"From a high level, I'm a small business owner, I have children in the public schools here, and I work for the education system," Sakran said. "I'm intimately involved in the community's day-to-day operations."
He's knocked on about 1,200 doors and heard from voters that they feel disconnected from their local government. He doesn't have a campaign manager but has received help from a few volunteers. He'll have robocalls and text messages go out reminding people about the election next week, too.
Voters also will cast ballots for the Charleston mayoral runoff race between incumbent Mayor John Tecklenburg and City Councilman Mike Seekings. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.