COLUMBIA — Just days before Columbia voters head to the poll to decide how their city should be run, the state's highest elected official has weighed in.
Gov. Nikki Haley has come out in support of Columbia's strong mayor referendum, which will be decided on Tuesday, after discussing the issue with Mayor Steve Benjamin.
A mailer explaining her position was sent to residents late this week.
"After talking to Mayor Benjamin, Governor Haley was happy to lend her support," said Rob Godfrey, a spokesman for Haley, in a statement. "The governor has long believed in restructuring government to produce accountability and efficiency for the people it serves -- not just in state government, but at every level of government."
Adam Fogle, strategic advisor to the Columbia Citizens for Better Government, said Benjamin and Haley spoke at a recent economic development announcement. Fogle said Haley's support adds to the "broad, bipartisan coalition" supporting the referendum. He said that includes former Gov. Jim Hodges, former Attorney General Henry McMaster and others.
"This is exactly the kind of reform Governor Haley has fought for at the state level and a rare opportunity for our city," Fogle said in a statement.
"She is one of the leading voices probably in the country on reform and making things work better," McMaster said.
"This vote is about the structure of government. We are not electing a candidate," McMaster said. "The governor and the mayor see it in the same light. Of course,(former Democratic Gov.) Jim Hodges and I see it in the same light, and we are in different parties."
Chris Winston contributed.