Candidates have not debated, but exchange charges

In a political "push poll" mailed to voters in Charleston City Council District 11, candidate Tim Mallard accused Councilwoman Anne Frances Bleecker of violating city parking regulations and said rising city taxes will reduce some residents' savings from statewide property tax reform.

In fact, city taxes have not been rising, and Bleecker has not been found to have violated any parking rules.

"It's all distraction," said Bleecker, who is seeking re-election. "This guy won't show up at a debate."

Mallard, who did not attend the last two debates scheduled with Bleecker, said Wednesday that he believes Bleecker improperly obtained a downtown residential parking decal.

"I tried to get one. I couldn't get one," Mallard said. "To me, it appears she received some special treatment."

Bleecker and Mallard each live in District 11, which serves Johns Island and parts of West Ashley and James Island. Both work in downtown Charleston.

Mallard supporters have been circulating e-mailed photographs of Bleecker's car sporting a 2006 downtown residential parking sticker. The e-mails, like the

Mallard campaign mailing, say that if Bleecker lives in District 11, then she should not have a residential parking permit downtown.

City regulations allow anyone who owns or rents a residential unit to obtain two parking permits, said Hernan Pena, director of the city Department of Traffic and Transportation.

"We don't promote the fact that if you own a property, but live somewhere else, you can come in and get a permit, but the ordinance is very clear," Pena said.

Bleecker and Susan Romaine owned 82 Church St., a property that included an apartment, according to Bleecker.

"Even after we sold it, we rented back the third floor, and I would stay up there frequently, though rarely overnight," Bleecker said.

County records show Bleecker and Romaine sold the property in 2005. Bleecker's parking permit expired at the end of 2006.

Mallard said that when he called the city to see if he could get a permit, he was told he'd have to show a property tax bill proving his property is assessed as an owner-occupied residential unit. Pena said that's not a requirement.

College of Charleston political science professor Bill Moore said Mallard's political mailing is a negative campaign tactic known as a "push poll." Push polls appear to be surveys, and typically ask readers to choose responses to negative statements about the candidate's opponent.

Among other questions, Mallard's mailing tells recipients that Bleecker had a parking decal and asked them to choose "the proper response by the city to this abuse." The responses offered included Bleecker vacating her City Council seat, the appointment of a special judge, unspecified fines or penalties, or that "Council members deserve special treatment."

While Mallard supporters have been sending e-mails about Bleecker's parking sticker, Mal- lard opponents have circulated e-mails about his driving record, pointing out his string of traffic tickets and drunken driving arrests. The records are publicly available on county and state Web sites.

Charleston County and State Law Enforcement Division records show Mallard was arrested three times for drunken driving between 1981 and 2002 but not convicted. He has paid fines or forfeited bail repeatedly for speeding, reckless driving, driving with an expired license and other traffic offenses.

Bleecker, a 49-year-old lawyer specializing in family court cases, was first elected to City Council in 1999 and is seeking a third term.

Mallard, a 46-year-old industrial real estate broker with experience in regional planning and economic development, is seeking elective office for the first time in Tuesday's election.