Election eve push, pushback on mayor referendum

cleblanc@thestate.comDecember 2, 2013 

Columbia’s mayor and supporters of a strong-mayor government made a last-minute push Monday to persuade voters.

About 75 to 80 backers of a mayor as the city’s chief executive gathered to proclaim that a strong-manager form has failed and it’s time for a change.

Mayor Steve Benjamin, the face of the vote “yes” campaign in Tuesday’s referendum, called together leaders from Columbia’s political, business, neighborhood and religious communities. Several spoke to the media, saying it’s time to change the council-manager form under which the city has operated since 1949.

The proponents of change repeated the issues raised during the strident campaign that erupted in August after City Council rejected a referendum, again, by a one-vote margin.

Kit Smith, one of the leaders of the vote “no” group, stopped short of saying that Benjamin’s news conference at Cecil A. Tillis Center behind Drew Wellness Center indicated proponents are worried about Tuesday’s outcome.

“They’re the ones with the (voter preference) polls,” she said. “They’re trying to do some last-minute stuff reacting to something we don’t know about.”

Columbia’s 72 precincts will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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