Mayoral candidates near $300,000 mark, and it's along way until Nov. 3

Charleston City Hall

The four candidates most actively running to become Charleston's next mayor have raised almost $300,000 so far, and the race is on pace to become the city's most expensive ever.

Mayor Joe Riley has said repeatedly he won't seek another term, and several candidates have gotten an early jump on fundraising in hopes of getting an edge in the wide-open race to replace him.

The top candidates could easily spend more than $1 million this year, said Gibbs Knotts, chairman of the College of Charleston's political science department. That money will be spent on consultants, polling, get-out-the vote efforts and ads.

Knotts noted six candidates vying for mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, spent more than $3 million last year.

"I would expect it to take well into the six-figure range to run a credible campaign," he said.

In 2011, Riley raised $546,704 during his entire re-election effort, but none of his four challengers raised more than $67,000.

There already are two candidates who have surpassed that $67,000 mark. John Tecklenburg, a Charleston businessman who previously worked in Riley's administration, jumped in the race first and already has raised $133,696 - the most of any candidate, according to State Ethics Commission filings.

His campaign released a statement, saying, "Right now, these are the only numbers available as a gauge for support, and to have over 300 donors at this time is just remarkable."

Restaurateur Dick Elliott is a close second with $99,462, while former City Council members Paul Tinkler and Henry Fishburne have $43,765 and $16,200, respectively.

Several other figures have said they may run, but none have begun raising significant money, according to the State Ethics Commission's website. Filing for the seat doesn't open until August, and the election isn't until Nov. 3.

Some of these potential candidates include former Riley campaign manager Ginny Deerin, former City Councilman Maurice Washington, current City Council members Mike Seekings and Dean Riegel, Charleston real estate broker Russell Guerard, and state Reps. Leon Stavrinakis, Wendell Gilliard, and Chip Limehouse.

There is a $1,000 limit on contributions to local candidates, and several already have maxed out their giving to mayoral hopefuls.

Tecklenburg has received $1,000 from William Morrison Jr., Molly Greene, Leonard Long Jr., Joseph P. Griffith, AJ Trust, Aaron Edwards, Francis McCann, Ben Warren of California, musician Steve Simon, E. Boineau & Co.; TARA of Charleston, LLC, and lawyers E. Paul Gibson and Michael Hollings.

Some of Elliott's large donors have restaurant ties, including Limehouse Produce, Tradd Newton and Sixteen 70 Group Inc., while John Tiencken, Frank Brumley, William Glen Brown; Periodontal Associates LLC.; Steven Mungo, William Best and The Beach Co. also have given him $1,000 each.

Fishburne's largest donors include Charleston entrepreneur James McNab Jr. and J. Roderick Heller III and his wife Kay of Tennessee.

Tinkler's notable donors include Rene Gibson of Charleston, lawyer Paul Gibson, William Phillips Tinkler of Greenwood, engineer Leonard Greene and CPA Barry Gumb.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.