James Lewis and Jimmy Gallant have sat near each other in Charleston City Council Chambers for more than a decade. They have met at crime scenes late at night. They genuinely seem to like each other.
But for one of them to remain on City Council, one most likely will have to defeat the other this fall.
It could be one of the city's friendliest political contests in a while.
Their predicament is one of the biggest changes to emerge from the city's redistricting process. The plan for redrawing the city's 12 single-member council districts is now in the mail to the U.S. Justice Department.
"It's one of those unfortunate things," said Lewis, who lives downtown and has represented District 3 since 1995.
Gallant saw his Wagener Terrace neighborhood drawn into District 3 to allow the city to relocate District 5 from downtown to its faster-growing suburbs. Like Lewis, he would like to continue to serve.
"It scares me that I would have to compete against a very, very, very good friend," Gallant said. "I love him like a brother. He's been a tremendous public servant. In fact, I learned a lot about City Council from Councilman Lewis."
Lewis noted he and Gallant have worked together since Gallant joined City Council in 1999. Their record since that time is largely the same. Asked whether there would be any mud-slinging in their election fight, Lewis said, "There ain't no mud to sling."
Neither voiced a complaint Tuesday about the redistricting process, which Lewis said involved more public involvement than the process a decade ago.
If the Justice Department approves it, the new plan will take effect before the city's odd-numbered council district elections this fall.
Mayor Joe Riley praised council's decision to give the plan unanimous approval and predicted the city's politics would not change as its council representation continues to shift west of the Ashley River (and, to a lesser extent, east of the Cooper to Daniel Island).
Riley noted the city's politics didn't change after 1990 or 2000, when redistricting caused similar shifts.
"City Council has proved to be not parochial in their dealings," he said. "They're interested in the whole city. I really don't think that (redistricting) will produce a change of public policy in the city because it hasn't in the past."
The other dramatic change involves the redrawing of City Council District 6, a seat now held by Councilman William Dudley Gregorie. It's not clear how that will impact him, however, because he currently is running for mayor and is not up for re-election to council until 2013.