I often think of how our state would have been different if Mayor Joe Riley had been elected the governor of South Carolina.
I met Mayor Riley when he was a candidate for governor in 1994. He knew my father well, as he would visit my dad while he worked in Gov. Richard Riley’s administration. My dad and I both felt that Mayor Riley was the strongest person to lead the state as governor. In a very close race, Mayor Riley was defeated in the Democratic Primary by Lieutenant Governor Nick Theodore. The Democrats went on to lose the governor’s race to David Beasley in the general election.
Under Gov. Joe Riley’s leadership, the state would have continued the progress of former Gov. Dick Riley (no relation) and expanded the Education Improvement Act so that public education would get the financial attention it deserves — an issue that is still unresolved today. Gov. Joe Riley would have used the office as a bully pulpit to advocate for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from all places on the Statehouse grounds in his first term instead of 20 years later. A Gov. Joe Riley would have worked tirelessly to make sure that the citizens of the state had access to quality health care, high-paying jobs and improved governmental services that are relied upon, such as mental health.
The state would have been more advanced if Joe Riley would have been elected governor back then. He could have done for the state what he did for Charleston. His time as mayor has not been perfect (for example, I have raised issues regarding the low number of African-American businesses and procurement opportunities awarded to African-American businesses in the city of Charleston. I have also challenged the constitutionality of police department’s “stop and frisk policy” that in my view, has resulted in racial profiling), but the city is much better off because he served.