Power struggles among leaders in three Lexington County communities could culminate in Tuesday’s election.
Showdowns loom in West Columbia, Irmo and Chapin as incumbents face challengers promising to end the persistent conflict.
The feuds pit strong-willed mayors against council members demanding a greater voice in decisions.
The ballot gives voters in each community the choice of settling or extending the squabbles.
Other races in Batesburg-Leesville and Pelion are low-key, even with the bid of former Batesburg-Leesville Councilman Steve Cain to regain the post from which he was removed from the council in June for not living in the district from which he was elected.
No ballot will occur in Pine Ridge, Springdale, Summit and Swansea. There are no contests there, so all candidates will be elected automatically.
Here’s a snapshot of major races:
The mayor’s race is a grudge match between Mayor Joe Owens and his political opponents who control City Council.
Foes suggest Owens is vulnerable after he lost a referendum a year ago to restore authority taken away by other city leaders.
Owens insists this campaign isn’t about revenge even though two council incumbents face challenges from mayoral allies. “That’s behind us,” he said of the friction.
The mayor is focusing on completion of a landmark redevelopment project on the Congaree riverfront as well as assisting homeowners coping with damage from recent floods.
Owens’ run is a contest that’s largely a rematch with former Mayor Bobby Horton, although newcomers Archie Ard and Madison Duncan offer alternate options.
Horton promises to “restore a spirit of cooperation at City Hall” while working on redevelopment and seeking to bring adjoining neighborhoods into the city.
He hopes that effort will produce restoration of the authority that Owens lost.
Mayor Hardy King survived an attempt to strip him of his control of agendas with the help of Paul Younginer, the councilman who is now seeking to oust him.
Ill will lingers among town leaders over King’s push to overhaul operations of the town’s signature festival, the Okra Strut.
Some council members are upset that he initiated an investigation by Richland County deputies into festival financial problems that resulted in no charges but found sloppy practices that led to changes in its operation.
The festival finished in the black this year for the first time since 2006 after town staff took charge, a shift that King advocated and Younginer supported.
Steady bickering among town leaders prompts political foes to say King is prickly.
Younginer, a son of a former mayor, promises to restore “civil discourse and respect” at Town Hall while working to assure neighborhoods don’t fall into disrepair.
“Civility is not silence,” King said. “It’s standing up and doing the right thing.”
Town voters also will pick among four candidates for two council posts elected at-large, a field that includes long-time incumbent and King critic Harvey Hoots as well as newcomers pro- and anti-mayor.
Mayor Skip Wilson isn’t on the ballot, but the outcome of contests for Town Council races amounts to an unofficial referendum on his performance.
Wilson is singling out Councilwoman Kay Hollis, his strongest critic, for defeat at the polls. She is among four candidates running for two posts elected at-large. Newcomers Michael Clonts, Mark McCandlish and James Palassis are among the mix of pro- and anti-Wilson contenders.
Hollis is part a bloc of three council members who challenge and sometimes stymie initiatives of Wilson, the town’s first new mayor in 32 years.
Wilson fired a well-liked town clerk, largely took control of town finances and refuses to let council members bring up matters he doesn’t favor for consideration.
Most of those steps came after court rulings upheld his ability to make those moves unilaterally without council consent.
“He knows I don’t agree with most of his philosophy,” Hollis said. “He believes he is a dictator.”
Hollis insists she isn’t hanging around to frustrate Wilson.
Town leaders need to prepare for steady growth while remaining fiscally conservative instead of accepting tax hikes he calls necessary to keep town services up-to-date, she said.
“We can work together if everybody has a say,” Hollis said.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483.