After tumultuous tenure, Moe Baddourah ousted by Columbia City Council newcomer

Tuesday’s city election results delivered a win for at least one new member of Columbia’s city council, who defeated a two-term incumbent.

Will Brennan, the 39-year-old owner of a design and construction firm, is the unofficial winner of the District 3 seat, which covers the central neighborhoods of Shandon, Rosewood and the southwestern part of the city.

Brennan will replace Councilman Moe Baddourah, who has held the District 3 seat since 2012 but was suspended from office for more than a year in 2017 and 2018 after he was charged with second-degree criminal domestic violence.

Brennan held a majority of 53.5 percent on Tuesday night, enough to avoid a runoff with Baddourah, who finished in third with 22 percent of the vote, and John Loveday, who had 24 percent.

Brennan credited his win to a message that focused on going “back to the basics on infrastructure and service, and it’s pretty clear that’s what people want,” the candidate said.

This will be his first elected office, but Brennan previously served the Animal Mission, Columbia Tree and Appearance Commission, Riverbanks Zoo Society and the Richland 1 Foundation. He also ran for Richland County Council in 2018, but lost in the Democratic primary to Allison Terracio, who also won in the general election.

Once on the council, Brennan wants to increase funding for the police department, better address water and sewer issues, and better utilize the area’s rivers as a tool for recreation and tourism. Brennan also wants to focus on the face-to-face encounters citizens have with city services.

“Whether you come into construction permitting or business licensing, you need to have a positive experience,” he said. “A great city has to have great service.”

Reached Wednesday, Baddourah said he was “a little surprised” by the result, but credited Brennan with earning the victory.

“I think he just worked harder than I did,” the outgoing councilman said. “He campaigned, and people came out to support him. I haven’t really had time to analyze the data, but he won just about every precinct.”

Baddourah, a 56-year-old businessman and field engineer, said he would be willing to help Brennan get caught up to speed on budgeting and neighborhood issues during the transition. Brennan will be sworn in next January.

Baddourah won re-election to city council in 2015, but was unable to participate on the council between March 2017, when he was suspended by Gov. Henry McMaster following his arrest, and October of last year, when the misdemeanor charge was dropped and the councilman went into a pretrial intervention program.

Baddourah allegedly slammed his estranged wife’s leg in a car door during an argument in a Rosewood Drive parking lot.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Councilman Ed McDowell won a second term in downtown-centered District 2 with 66 percent of the vote. Incumbent Councilman Howard Duvall won 44 percent of the vote in an at-large race and will likely face a runoff against Sara Middleton, who won 36 percent.

The Richland County Election Commission will certify the results of the election on Thursday.

Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.