His write-in campaign worked in West Columbia

tflach@thestate.comNovember 28, 2013 

Tem Miles

— New West Columbia City Councilman Tem Miles won his post the hard way.

He ran as a write-in candidate – a tactic rarely successful – in a campaign that went so well that he garnered nearly as many votes as four challengers combined at the Nov. 5 ballot.

Becoming the voters’ choice that way is “a tough row to hoe,” Miles said.

But it was his only route after the birth of a new daughter distracted him from meeting the Aug. 9 deadline to appear on the ballot, Miles said.

His victory is no surprise to Mayor Joe Owens, who favored another candidate.

“He went out and talked with everyone,” Owens said. “He walked the streets hard – you’ve got to give him credit for that.”

The only downside, Miles said, is he didn’t lose much weight.

He will serve two years in filling a vacancy created by the death of predecessor Abby Bray last spring.

At the start of the campaign, he was “Tem Who?” in a field that included a pair of neighborhood leaders and a former council member.

So he decided to meet residents one-on-one, visiting homes and talking with each as long as he was welcome.

Miles estimates he knocked on more than 400 doors in District 4, an area stretching across many of West Columbia’s oldest neighborhoods between the Congaree River and Charleston Highway. It includes Congaree Park, the Mill Village, the Avenues, State Street and Still Hopes.

His campaign was a dual challenge.

Miles, a lawyer and former legislative aide, had to sell himself to voters amid explaining how to cast a write-in ballot electronically. He also sent out how-to-do-it mailings on voting that way.

The outcome in which he garnered 88 of 192 ballots cast in the nonpartisan contest – double those of his closest rival – left him “absolutely floored.”

His initial focus as a councilman will be on assuring basics such as safety, trash collection and utility service are delivered well and at low cost, calling that vital to keep the area a popular place to live.

“My interest is seeing that this remains a good community for families,” Miles said.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-7483.

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