MOUNT PLEASANT — The November election will be an important opportunity to shape the direction of South Carolina's fourth-largest city because two Town Council members have declined to seek reelection, guaranteeing at least two new decision-makers will be chosen.
When filing ended at noon Monday, nine men and women had entered the contest for four Town Council seats. All are elected at large.
Four candidates — including former Mayor Linda Page — filed to run for two seats on the Mount Pleasant Waterworks Commission.
Councilmen Bob Brimmer and Kevin Cunnane did not file to seek reelection, creating two opportunities for Mayor Will Haynie to gain votes to support his agenda. Brimmer was considered a swing vote on the council, and Cunnane frequently clashed with the mayor.
This year, Haynie was thwarted in an effort to replace the town's legal team, and talk of changing Mount Pleasant to a "strong mayor" government received a cool reception on council. If the seats now held by Brimmer and Cunnane are filled in November with council members who support Haynie, then he would appear to have a reliable majority on the nine-member panel where the mayor votes as a member.
Cunnane, a lawyer and former New York City firefighter, is currently serving a two-year term on council — the remainder of the council term Haynie vacated when he was elected mayor. Cunnane has battled frequently and publicly with Haynie, telling The Post and Courier at one point: "I didn't curse at him. I called him a sissy and a bigot."
Last month, the town went to court to keep from having to produce a police incident report involving Cunnane, which was initially brought to the public’s attention on Twitter by Haynie. The report involved a bullying incident at a middle school — in which no charges were filed — which Cunnane had asked the police to document.
Councilmen Joe Bustos and Jim Owens are seeking reelection. Both have historically been allied with the Save Shem Creek group and, while Bustos has become Haynie's right-hand man, Owens has recently been in conflict with the mayor and the locally influential group.
"Our main source of dysfunction is our general lack of leadership," Owens wrote in a June opinion article.
Bustos, who unsuccessfully sought to put a referendum on the ballot aimed at changing the town's form of government to one with a strong full-time mayor, has said the real problem is several fellow council members.
“We’ve seen how, without a central figure who is a strong mayor, two or three people (on Town Council) can just be completely disruptive," he said in June.
The November election will fill four seats on Town Council. Filing to run for four-year terms were:
- Joe Bustos (i)
- Stephen Becker
- Howard R. Chapman
- Brenda L. Corley
- Gary Davis
- Laura Hyatt
- Mike Lawrie
- Jim Owens (i)
- Jake Rambo
None of the candidates have issued position statements about their campaigns, but several have been in the news previously.
Chapman was director of the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority until he retired in 2011, and served on Mount Pleasant's Planning Commission.
Rambo was principal of James B. Edwards Elementary until he resigned in 2017 rather than let the school district transfer him to another school, and in 2018 unsuccessfully ran for a Charleston County School Board seat.
There will also be two Mount Pleasant Waterworks Commission seats on the ballot. Chairman Rick Crosby is seeking another term, but Commissioner John Burn is not. Filing to run for six-year terms were:
- Rick M. Crosby (i)
- Julian "Hoppy" Hopkins
- John W. Matthews
- Linda G. Page
If Page were to win, that could make for some interesting commission meetings because the town's mayor also serves on the commission. Page was Mount Pleasant's mayor until Haynie decisively defeated her in the 2017 election, winning by a 2-to-1 margin.