Two runoff contenders in the Columbia City Council race have teamed up to blunt their opponents, who have been endorsed by the mayor.
Howard Duvall, who on Tuesday took 36 of the 84 precincts and had an 1,100-vote lead in a citywide race, said he and District 2 candidate, the Rev. Ed McDowell Jr., began coordinating their races in recent days and plan to continue the strategy into the Nov. 17 runoff.
“The mayor was obviously going to push two people,” Duvall said Wednesday of Mayor Steve Benjamin’s endorsements of Andy Smith for the citywide seat and, a week before Election Day, Aaron Bishop for the district seat. “We felt we could be more effective if we ran together,” Duvall said. “And we did coordinate more the past few days.”
Election fliers billed Duvall and McDowell as “The Team That Cares.” One of their fliers pledged that, together, they would bring more jobs, better job training, safer neighborhoods and “gang-free communities.”
Duvall said he and McDowell, a retired pastor, “became a little bit better friends” after Benjamin’s endorsements. “We determined that we could be more effective on council as independent votes,” Duvall said. “I felt I could be more effective ... if the mayor didn’t have four votes in his hip pocket.”
A total of 9,979 votes were cast Tuesday, which puts the turnout at 12.6 percent, according to released election figures.
Duvall, a retired former director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina, also said that his and McDowell’s presence on council “might put the brakes on the undebated projects that the mayor brings up.”
That prompted Benjamin to respond, saying, “Remind Mr. Duvall that he is running for City Council – not against me. But I do look forward to staring down the Duvall-Cromartie coalition.”
Efforts to reach McDowell on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
But McDowell has said previously that he has accepted campaign contributions and political advice from E.W. Cromartie. The controversial former District 2 political powerhouse is more of an adviser than a contributor, McDowell said in a previous interview. Cromartie lost his seat after a federal conviction for tax evasion and for trying to hide what he was doing from the Internal Revenue Service. He served about a year in prison and is back home.
Duvall shot back at Benjamin linking him to Cromartie. “What’s the difference between that (Duvall-Cromartie coalition) and the Benjamin machine?” Duvall asked.
Smith, 36, meanwhile has positioned himself as the fresh face of young Columbians who want to tap the city’s big thinkers and innovators to “shape a bolder future for Columbia.”
Election results, which are to be certified Thursday morning, show that Duvall carried 11 precincts with triple-digit support in the at-large contest. Smith carried six with 100 or more votes. But Duvall’s margins in the precincts he won were much larger than Smith’s. Even when he lost, the margins were small.
Duvall’s core support came in Districts 3 and 4, especially in neighborhoods around A.C. Moore Elementary, Hand Middle, Rosewood Elementary, Dreher High and Brennen Elementary, the latest totals show. He won 3,440 votes.
Smith got 2,313 votes and posted some of his best numbers in three precincts in those same neighborhoods. But Duvall did even better in two of those three. In most of the precincts that Smith won, vote totals were double digits.
Benjamin defends Smith’s performance. “In just over two months, with less money and running against a candidate who has been organizing for years, Andy displaced an incumbent and forced a runoff,” the mayor said, referring to Smith’s and Duvall’s ousting of the incumbent, Cameron Runyan.
Reach LeBlanc is (803) 771-8664.
Final but uncertified results from Columbia City Council elections Tuesday
Howard Duvall, 38.66 percent
Andy Smith, 26 percent
Cameron Runyan, 20.6 percent
John Adams, 8.8 percent
Joseph Azar, 4.2 percent
Nammu Muhammad, 1.6 percent
Rev. Ed McDowell, 37.83 percent
Aaron Bishop, 34.6 percent
Alexzena Furgess, 13.25 percent
Katie Fletcher Bolden, 8.6 percent
Doretha Bull, 4.7 percent
Races in two other Richland County towns
▪ Blythewood voters returned Mayor Michael Ross, who was unopposed. Larry Griffin received 169 votes to win the remaining term of a councilman who moved out of town. Eddie Baughman and Malcolm Gordge are the choices for two full-term seats on town council. Baughman got 179 votes, while Gordge received 148.
▪ Arcadia Lakes incumbent Linda Jackson and former councilman Michael Smith were unopposed for a pair of council posts.
Charleston mayoral race runoff
Charleston businessman John Tecklenburg and state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis are to face off in a Nov. 17 runoff. They are seeking to succeed Joe Riley as the city’s first new mayor in 40 years.
Tecklenburg led Stavrinakis by 37 to 36 percent with 94 of 96 precincts reporting, according to unofficial results.