Candidates pile on ballot in Columbia

A flurry of last-minute filings for Columbia City Council on Friday added to the already-crowded field for mayor and created a showdown of former political heavyweights in District 4.

But no one filed to run against District 1 Councilman Sam Davis and only two filed to run against two-term incumbent at-large Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine. Both are running small campaigns and have no political experience.

Filing for the April 6 elections closed at 5 p.m. Five Points business owner Joseph Azar filed for mayor just before the deadline, his fifth consecutive attempt at the mayor's seat.

Also filing for mayor was contractor Irwin Wilson, who is also an associate minister at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Rosewood - which is most known for its pastor, the Rev. Solomon Jackson, who won a $259.9 million Powerball lottery jackpot.

Also running for mayor are attorneys Steve Benjamin and Steve Morrison, District 4 Councilman Kirkman Finlay, Five Points business owner Aaron Johnson, postal employee Sparkle Clark, retired Army Lt. Col. Gary Myers and Nammu Muhammed.

But it was the District 4 council race that produced the most surprises. Finlay is giving the seat up to run for mayor. Former Richland County Council chairman Tony Mizzell filed for the seat Friday afternoon, touting his experience in pushing through the local option sales tax in 2005 that reduced property taxes for Richland County homeowners.

And Kevin Fisher, an advertising executive who ran for mayor in 2006 and lost to Bob Coble, filed for the seat saying he would become "the fourth vote for fiscal responsibility" - a reference to what he says is the council's recent shift toward fiscal conservatism.

Also in the race are commercial Realtor and volunteer firefighter Walter Powell Jr., former Columbia city manager Leona Plaugh and Heathwood Neighborhood Association co-president Mary Waters.

At-large Councilwoman Devine faces challenges from Antonio Williams and Five Points business owner Grant Robertson.