Small forums the norm for Charleston’s big race

Four Charleston mayor candidates speak to the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors’ Commercial Investment Division on Thursday.

Many of Charleston’s mayoral candidates have been to more forums than they can remember, and most have been low-key affairs — like Thursday’s event before a Lowcountry real estate group.

While the six-way race to see who replaces Mayor Joe Riley is the Lowcountry’s highest profile, most-watched contest of the year, the campaign itself has had few major moments — and might not until the first televised debate takes place on Oct. 14.

But the candidates still are keeping busy in more intimate settings, such as the more than 100 members and guests of the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors’ Commercial Investment Division.

Instead of banding together to try to host major events, many neighborhoods, business interests and nonprofits have decided to host their own mayoral forums.

One of the mayor hopefuls, state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, said his calendar has just about filled up.

“Everybody wants a forum,” he said. “We get five requests in a week.”

Joseph Tecklenburg, who is helping his father, businessman John Tecklenburg, agreed. “It’s almost to the point where, if we don’t get an invitation one day, it’s ‘What happened?’ ”

Stavrinakis, Tecklenburg and hopefuls Ginny Deerin, founder of the nonprofit WINGS for Kids, and City Councilman William Dudley Gregorie had a combined 30 minutes to make a pitch Thursday.

Each emphasized that action was needed on traffic — on finishing Interstate 526 in particular. They also supported revitalizing West Ashley’s commercial corridors, protecting the city’s historic district and continuing to work on problem flooding.

Stavrinakis emphasized his experience in state and local office, particularly getting money for Interstate 526 and other projects — and he noted his endorsement from the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce reflects that.

“We need a serious leader who knows how to get things done,” he said, “to get funding for new projects.”

Deerin said her top priorities would be implementing her traffic plan, improving West Ashley and supporting the city’s neighborhood schools. She also vowed to make it easier to do business in the city.

Tecklenburg, a commercial real estate broker, played up his lengthy experiences in the business world.

“I’m not Donald Trump, but I am the business person in this race,” he said. “My vision is that Charleston be the No. 1 place to live in addition to being the No. 1 place to visit.”

Gregorie said he is in the best position to work with City Council, where he has served since 2009. He also said he would combine the city’s planning and transportation departments.

“As a sitting City Council member, I would like to think I’m part of the current vision,” he said.

The other two candidates in the race are former City Councilman Maurice Washington and nonprofit consultant Toby Smith.

The election is Nov. 3, with a Nov. 17 runoff likely.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.