Mayoral candidates spar over Citizens for a Greater Charleston

Incumbent Mayor Joe Riley (from left), David Farrow, William Dudley Gregorie and Craig Jelks

As the Charleston mayoral race wound down Friday, two of the top contenders exchanged salvos over a well-financed third-party group seeking to influence the outcome.

Mayor Joe Riley's campaign blasted Citizens for a Greater Charleston again, questioning whether it was operating independently of City Councilman and mayoral hopeful William Dudley Gregorie, as required by state law.

Gregorie fired back, saying he has not worked with the group, which has inundated mailboxes with pro-Gregorie fliers and taken out TV ads, too.

"They're in search of the Boogieman. If you really think about it, the Boogieman is the mayor," Gregorie said. "What he's doing right now is being involved in mass distraction instead of dealing with whatever issues are out there and addressing them. He is getting into a spin of anonymity issue.

That's not the issue -- it's whether the facts that have been presented are accurate."

Riley's campaign chairman, Capers Barr, said the committee has crossed an ethical line "because they are obviously coordinating the high-def production of Gregorie's TV spots with the candidate himself and likely the candidate's agents."

Asked how the Citizens' committee was able to film him interacting on King Street, Gregorie said, "All of our walks are on our website and folks can go to our website and determine where I may be. ... A lot of stuff is in the public domain."

Barr said the committee's type of negative campaigning is below the dignity of the people of Charleston.

"It is mudslinging at its very worst, occurring at a time in the history of our country when people lack trust in government, and are fed up with a political process that foments nothing more than destruction for its own sake," he said. "For the first time in my life, I can say that this election now becomes a choice between good and evil."

Riley has outpaced Gregorie and his other rivals in the fundraising department, but the race took on a twist two weeks ago, as Citizens for a Greater Charleston emerged and began complementing Gregorie's campaign.

A federal court ruling last year essentially wiped away South Carolina's ethics laws that had required such committees to abide by the same disclosure rules and $1,000 limit of giving for local races.

Author David Farrow spent part of Friday holding a press conference at the Crosstown Expressway, which has an ongoing flooding problem that he has vowed to work on.

"I want to be mayor because I want to step up and do the hard things," he said. "I'm beholden to no one. No one has bought me, though people have tried."

School teacher Craig Jelks recently said his campaign is going well, and he has received positive feedback from everyone he has talked to.

Joshua Kennedy, who manages a restaurant on Johns Island, said he sent emails to all his competitors Friday.

"I told them I'll see them in the future no matter what the outcome. I plan on keeping at it until we get this thing straight," Kennedy said. "The only person that responded to me was Joe Riley."