FACE OFFMassey and Griffin Heading to A runoff to fill City Council Dist. 10 seat
November 17, 2017
By Bill Davis | News Editorl
Election Day 2017 was not a good day for incumbents on City Council, and a less-than-perfect result for Mayor John Tecklenburg.
In Dist. 2, which represents parts of West Ashley, insurance man Kevin Shealy absolutely swamped incumbent Rodney Williams by a close to 2-to-1 margin. In Dist. 10, incumbent Dean Riegel got “run off,” receiving just more than one-sixth of the vote, leaving newcomers Summer Massey and Harry J. Griffin to fight it out in a Tuesday, Nov. 21 special run-off election.
Incumbents Williams and Riegel had all been endorsed by the mayor. Another Tecklenburg endorsement went to Amy Brennan on the peninsula, who is going to a run-off for Dist. 6 against incumbent Dudley Gregorie, who had exactly one more vote in the popular count.
“It was a tough day for incumbents, but a very good one for our citizens, who voted in large numbers for more and better affordable housing and a new city council,” says Tecklenburg, referring to the easy win for a $20 million referendum to allow the city to add to local affordable housing stock.
After the election, Massey and Griffin both made good on promises for a debate, and will face-off against each other this Thursday, Nov. 16, beginning at 5:15 p.m. at the West Ashley High School auditorium.
Immediately following their debate at 6:30 p.m., the city will present the findings of the Church Creek Drainage Study Report in the same facility. Homes flooding and re-flooding in the basin, located in the heart of Dist. 10, was the biggest issue pushing voters last week.
Griffin says he will work hard leading up to the debate to shore up support in precincts he fared poorly in last week.
“At the same time, I will try to pick up some of Dean’s voters, and convince them that I’m the best guy, that they should get out of the house and vote for now that their original candidate is not in the race,” says Griffin, who describes Riegel’s supporters as a “tight-knit group.”
Massey says she doesn’t plan to change much of what she did in the first election, perhaps unsurprisingly as she outpointed Griffin 43-39 percent. “It worked fine,” she says, adding that she believes that she will do better in Riegel’s former camp because Griffin, 22, is so young.
Both candidates know that turnout, which one of them can get the most supporters to the polls, will decide this runoff. “Given that the runoff falls on a Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving, it might be extremely difficult,” says Massey, who plans to tell supporters to use the city’s absentee-voting option to make sure their votes get counted.
Both Griffin and Massey say they look forward to working with City Council and the mayor should they win. But one of the two will be dealing with a West Ashley contingent split by the election, and a mayor seemingly weakened by it.
Both incumbents Riegel and Williams complained that other members of the West Ashley councilmen — Marvin Wagner, Bill Moody, and Keith Waring provided not only support and endorsements of their opponents, but in some cases raised money for them.
Additionally, some see the rejection of Tecklenburg’s preferred candidates as a troublesome confidence vote on the mayor’s tenure so far.
College of Charleston history department chairman Gibbs Knotts says there may be some of the same dynamics in West Ashley races this go-round as were present in the recent Mt. Pleasant Town Council vote that ousted many incumbents. On that side of the Cooper River, Knotts says, “crazy and out of control development” was the main issue. But Knotts notes that Riegel and Williams were both fans of construction moratoriums in West Ashley.
As such, Knotts says that incumbent fatigue and “not seeing a lot of change” could have been the big push in the soggier corner of West Ashley.
Knotts sees a wounded Tecklenburg who “has some fences to mend” to have an easier time to get his agenda, especially relating to revitalization, going.
“Today, I’m looking forward to working together with all our councilmembers, old and new, on the critical quality-of-life issues facing our residents — flooding and drainage, traffic relief, controlling over-development, West Ashley revitalization and more,” says the mayor.
West Ashley’s other City Councilman, Peter Shahid says it’s too early to say that their contingent is fractured.
“No one is saying they are against revitalization,” Shahid points out. “Let’s see what happens after the West Ashley Revitalization Commission makes it recommendations to the Planning Department, and then if they pass them unanimously on to City Council, we should get the recommendations passed.”
But, reading between Shahid’s lines, if there are stumbles getting the recommendations out of the commission, or if Council shoots them down, it could get a little messy in West Ashley, and between its councilmen and the mayor.