The fields are set for two of the Charleston area's highest profile local elections on Nov. 5: the mayoral races in Charleston and North Charleston. And both are crowded this year.
In Charleston, incumbent Mayor John Tecklenburg will face five challengers in his bid for a second term, while North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey faces four opponents in what he has said might be his final re-election bid.
New financial filings in the seven-way Charleston Mayoral race shows incumbent John Tecklenburg flexing the biggest bank account, but City Councilman Mike Seekings outraised Tecklenburg during the past three months.
The Charleston field
Tecklenburg will be challenged by two current City Council members: Mike Seekings and Gary White, who is running for mayor instead of seeking re-election to his District 1 council seat this fall.
Seekings has served on the council for nine years in the 8th council district, which covers much of the downtown historic district. He has said the city’s three biggest issues are infrastructure, flooding and mobility, and he has a plan to address them. Seekings also serves as the chairman of the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority.
White has served on the City Council 12 years, representing Daniel Island and some of downtown Charleston's eastern neighborhoods. He garnered support from two City Council colleagues, Bill Moody and Keith Waring. White also chairs the City Council's Committee on Ways and Means.
Former City Councilman Maurice Washington also is in the race. He served on council for eight years and said his campaign will focus on opposing over-development in favor of equity and inclusion, quality neighborhoods and focused on flooding, jobs and affordable housing.
In her first bid for city office, Charleston mayoral candidate Sheri Irwin describes herself as someone of the “regular working class.” She decided to run after attending meetings of the West Ashley Revitalization commission last year and learning about proposals that she feels will encourage people to move out of the area. Some of them included on highways 61 and 17 making right lanes for buses only and putting tolls on left lanes. Irwin said she feels Charlestonians are being ignored.
“It’s heartbreaking seeing what’s happening — all the overbuilding it’s causing flooding,” Irwin said.
Irwin has lived in Charleston the last 15½ years, resides in West Ashley and currently works for Charles Rivers as a meteorologist. If she wins, she intends to quit her current job, which would result in about a 50 percent pay cut.
Michelle Renée Orth said she is running for mayor on the “climate crisis platform.”
Orth has lived in Charleston for 3½ years and started a nonprofit called the Stone Soup Collective to help those who are “food insecure.” A James Island resident, Orth said lifestyle changes like switching to plant-based diets can impact climate change, which the city is “ground zero” in the impacts of climate change. Orth said the nonprofit gives away about 500 bowls of soup a month.
“I’m going into this race knowing I’ll be saying unpopular things,” Orth said. “I think enough people are waking up to the fact that our current systems are dysfunctional. We have to be responsible for our piece of this. It’s why we’re in this mess.”
Meanwhile, Charleston's City Council race brought in 16 candidates seeking seven open seats.
District 1 candidates are Angela Black Drake and Maria Delcioppo; District 3 candidates are incumbent James Lewis, Jason A. Sakran, Luqman S. Rasheed, Jason F. Taylor and Robert Cason Gaither; District 5 candidates are Karl Lee Brady Jr. and incumbent Marvin Wagner; District 7 candidates are incumbent Keith Waring and Christian King; District 9 candidates are incumbent Peter Shahid, Brett Barry and Leah A. Whatley; District 11 candidates are incumbent Bill Moody and Ross Appel.
Two are seeking to serve on the Charleston Water System's board, including John Andrew “Andy” Gilliom, and former City Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson.
The North Charleston field
North Charleston's mayoral race features candidates with varying range of political experience trying to unseat incumbent Keith Summey.
His challengers are John Singletary, Ashley Peele, Floyd Dotter and Thomas Dixon.
Summey, who has indicated that this will likely be his last term if he wins, has served as mayor since 1994. He hopes to complete a few projects before the end of his political career, including a new senior center on North Charleston's south end that is currently being designed.
“I want to continue moving in the direction we’ve been moving," he said.
The longtime mayor will see a familiar face of opposition in this year's race. Singletary has thrown his hat in for a second bid after losing against Summey in 2015.
Singletary said the loss taught him the importance of being in touch with the community and also gave him some exposure that he believes will help his campaign this go-around. “We’re highly confident," he said.
Dixon, who lost a bid as a Democrat against Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott in 2016, announced his mayoral campaign two years ago and said he is happy to finally get to this point in the election cycle.
The community activist said he will depend on his involvement in efforts to raise awareness around gun violence and discrimination to draw voters to the polls in November.
“I believe I have an appeal to the underserved people," he said.
Peele and Dotter will be running for political office for the first time, though Dotter has some campaigning experience. The North Charleston native has worked on campaigns for Rep. Marvin Pendarvis, D-North Charleston, and former Sen. Mike Rose, R-Summerville.
Dotter said he was recently inspired to run for office because he thinks North Charleston needs “to give government back to the people.” He said he’d like to see North Charleston change its form of government to a “weak mayor” system. If elected, he said he would cut his salary in half and use the money to fund an additional 10 City Council seats.
“A public servant gives more than they take. A self-servant takes more than they give,” he said. "I’m really kind of fed up with the self-servants who call themselves public servants.”
Dotter is a graduate of The Citadel and currently works for a company that transports boats.
Peele hopes to make history in this year’s bid. If elected, she would be North Charleston’s first female and openly gay mayor.
“I think a lot of people are tired of the same old politicians and same old politics,” she said. “They want somebody relatable.”
So far, some of the top issues being discussed in this year’s race include affordable housing, gentrification, gun violence, and several others. All of the incumbent’s opponents feel that his administration has ignored low-income communities that are largely impacted by these problems.
City Council seats are also up for grabs. Following are the seats with challengers:
District 3 candidates are incumbent Virginia Jamison, Russ Coletti and Kathi Love. District 4 candidates are incumbent Ron Brinson and Travis Blissett. District 5 candidates are incumbent Todd Olds, Althea Hall White and Jerome Heyward. District 6 candidates are incumbent Dorothy Williams and Jesse Williams. District 7 candidates are incumbent Sam Hart, Andrea BaileyErb, Greg Perry and Corey Van Hannegeyn. District 8 candidates are incumbent Bob King, Gordon Garrett and William Parker. District 9 candidates are incumbent Kenny Skipper and Robert Gerber. District 10 candidates are incumbent Michael A. Brown and DaQuan Washington.
Meanwhile, the town of Summerville also will hold an election on Nov. 5, but its filing period has not closed. The town expects a wide-open race for mayor after incumbent Wiley Johnson announced in July he wouldn’t seek another term. Current Dorchester County Councilman Bill Hearn, former town Fire Chief Ricky Waring IV, and local artist Fleming Moore have filed in a race that has already tripled fundraising from the 2015 election.
Three of the town’s six council seats are on the 2019 ballot. In District 2, incumbent Christine Czarnick — a Johnson ally — has filed for reelection and will be challenged by Terry Jenkins. Jenkins served on the council from 1992-99, and in 2011 was elected again. In 2016 he lost reelection to Czarnik by only a handful of votes.
Incumbents Bill McIntosh (District 4) and Bob Jackson (District 6) are currently running unopposed for their seats.
George Tupper, a residential contractor and real estate agent, has filed to run for the town’s commissioner of public works.
Filing for Summerville’s election remains open until noon Sep. 6.
Voters in Mount Pleasant also will decide four council races on Nov. 5, but not a mayoral race. Filing in those races closes Aug. 26.
Conner Mitchell contributed to this report.