Record low turnout puts incumbents back on Columbia City Council

Tameika Isaac Devine
Tameika Isaac Devine

The membership of Columbia City Council will remain unchanged with Tuesday’s re-election of incumbents in a campaign that set a new low in voter interest.

Preliminary results from the election shows that turnout was 4.5 percent in the citywide race.

That’s the first time since at least 2010 that turnout for a citywide race was in single digits, according to election records. By contrast, voter turnout was 31.2 percent in the 2010 election that produced Columbia’s first African-American mayor, Steve Benjamin. Benjamin was unopposed Tuesday and was re-elected to a third term. District 4 Councilman Daniel Rickenmann also was re-elected without opposition.

The poor turnout is inspite of efforts by city leaders a few years ago to move Columbia elections to the fall instead of spring to improve turnout.

In contrast to Columbia Tuesday, voter turnout in the the seven towns and cities in Lexington County with elections was 13.8 percent.

Those who showed up at the polls Tuesday decided to keep citywide Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine and District 1 Councilman Sam Davis. They won with 68 percent and 67 percent of the vote, respectively.

Davis and Devine are council’s most senior members. They return for their sixth and fifth four-year terms, respectively.

Five Points businessman Joe Azar, who challenged Devine, lost his 12th bid for a City Council seat. Chris Sullivan, who opposed Davis, lost his second campaign for elected office, having failed to capture a Richland County seat in the State House in 2012.

Both challengers were defeated despite a last-minute pitch from the Richland County Republican Party in support of Azar and Sullivan. Columbia’s elections are non-partisan.

Voters in the town of Blythewood chose Bryan Franklin and Larry Griffin as council members.

In Arcadia Lakes, Mayor Mark Huguley was re-elected without opposition. Peter Chesney won re-election as a write-in candidate and voters elected newcomer James Cullen.