Mayor-elect not hurt in car crash

Mayor-elect Steve Benjamin (center), flanked by volunteers Tuesday, was involved in a wreck Wednesday, but was not hurt. The other driver was taken to a hospital.

C. Aluka Berry

COLUMBIA -- Hours after his historic win to become the first black mayor of the state's capital city, Steve Benjamin was in a car crash but not injured early Wednesday as he drove to Columbia television stations for interviews.

Benjamin, 40, was driving east on one of the city's main thoroughfares at about 6 a.m. when his Mercedes SUV collided with a Toyota Tercel turning right just blocks from South Carolina's Statehouse.

Benjamin, a lawyer and lobbyist, was checked out by emergency workers at the scene but was not taken to a hospital. The driver of the Toyota was cut out of the vehicle and taken to a hospital, authorities said.

Authorities have not released her name, but multiple media outlets reported that Deborah Rubens had been driving to work as a server at the Clarion Hotel, less than a block from the crash.

Police spokesman Brick Lewis said officers did not suspect Benjamin had been drinking, and no field sobriety tests were administered to either driver.

Benjamin said in a statement that he was praying for the driver and hoped to visit her in the hospital.

"Because of my position as mayor-elect, I requested that the city ask another law enforcement agency to participate in the investigation to avoid the appearance of favoritism," Benjamin said. "It would be inappropriate for me to comment before they have finished their work."

Benjamin won a runoff election Tuesday over City Councilman Kirkman Finlay III to become Columbia's first black mayor. Benjamin won the initial election two weeks ago by about 1,000 votes, but fell well short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

Benjamin spent three years running the South Carolina Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole, leaving the agency for an unsuccessful run for attorney general in 2002.

He will replace Mayor Bob Coble, who decided to step down last year after two decades in office to spend more time with his family and concentrate on his law practice.