Dick Elliott drops out of Charleston mayor’s race

Charleston’s mayoral race had its first candidate exit Friday after restaurateur Dick Elliott bowed out.

“Since October, I’ve worked hard to successfully manage three important priorities in my life: organizing a campaign for mayor of a city I love, positioning my business interests to operate without my day-to-day involvement, and fulfilling my responsibilities to my extended family,” he said in a statement.

“In recent days, I have realized I cannot meet all three of these important obligations at the level they deserve,” he said.

Elliott, whose Maverick Southern Kitchens restaurants include Slightly North of Broad, High Cotton and the Old Village Post House in Mount Pleasant, was one of the first candidates to enter.

He also ranked second in the most recent fundraising reports, according to S.C. Ethics Commission filings.

Elliott said he was “extremely gratified” for that support but will make his family and 260 employees his top priority.

“The last 25 years of community involvement and business building have taught me that there are many ways to serve. I look forward to continuing to contribute all I can to preserving and nurturing Charleston as a wonderful place to live.”

The field to replace retiring Mayor Joe Riley is still crowded even without Elliott in the mix. Others include Charleston businessman John Tecklenburg, state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, former City Councilmen Paul Tinkler and Henry Fishburne, and current Councilman William Dudley Gregorie. Ginny Deerin, who ran Riley’s 2011 re-election bid, has filed paperwork and also may run.

The race still is at the very early stages, and several other candidates could emerge before filing opens in August. Elliott did not endorse another candidate in his statement.

The first mayoral campaign event is set for later this month, when nonprofit groups are scheduled to hold a luncheon at the Francis Marion Hotel to talk about issues they want mayoral candidates to address.

The election is Nov. 3, and a Nov. 17 runoff between the top two vote getters seems certain. Riley is retiring after 40 years in office.

Elliott plans to return his campaign cash to donors. “Within the next 30 days all contributions will be returned and all appropriate steps taken with the S.C. State Ethics Commission,” his exit message said.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.