CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Incumbent Mayor John Tecklenburg and five challengers vying to replace him will meet face-to-face for the race’s only scheduled live televised debate Thursday night.
The challengers include former State Rep. William Cogswell, activist Mika Gadsden, attorney Debra Gammons, veteran and political aide Clay Middleton, and Charleston City Councilman Peter Shahid.
With less than two weeks until Election Day, each candidate is working to convince Charleston city voters that they are the right person for the job.
Moderators Carolyn Murray and Riley Benson will ask a series of questions on topics that matter most to voters living across the city, including how to manage growth and development, flooding, and the need for affordable housing.
Each candidate will have one minute to respond to each question and may receive a follow-up question. The candidates will go back and forth answering questions and debating one another before making their final pitch in the form of a closing statement.
The six contenders have spent months — some more than a year — on the campaign trail meeting with voters and listening to their concerns. But, they have also had a chance to hear from each other while participating in forums hosted by various community groups and organizations.
That all sets the stage for Thursday’s primetime showdown.
Since launching his bid, Cogswell has centered his campaign around three themes: “safe communities, smart growth, and sound governance.” He advocates for what he calls a “strategic approach to growth,” which would include enacting new zoning ordinances. He also supports increased funding for city recreation leagues and community centers, as well as taking a regional approach to address both flooding and affordable housing.
Gadsden says one of her top priorities is addressing the climate crisis, including managing tidal flooding, which she says has been “exacerbated by inadequate water management practices and outdated infrastructure combined with dubious development schemes.” She is running on a “people-first” platform that advocates for community-based approaches to some of the city’s most pressing problems.
Gammons’ campaign platform centers around three key themes: preservation, protection, and pride. She says she wants to alleviate traffic congestion by making the city more pedestrian and biker-friendly and improve accessibility for those with physical disabilities or mobility issues. She also hopes to tackle overdevelopment on the peninsula and supports a temporary moratorium on further development.
Middleton launched his campaign in May, promising servant leadership and a commitment to improving Charleston’s livability. Among his top priorities are climate change, gentrification, and public safety. Middleton said he hopes to create a city that “works for everyone” by ensuring infrastructure keeps up with rapid growth, while also preserving the city’s history.
Shahid announced his bid for mayor with a goal to “rethink Charleston,” saying the city was in need of strong leadership and improved livability for its residents. He said he wants to take the successes that he has demonstrated on council to the next level. He plans to address the severe flooding problems, crime, workforce housing, traffic, and controlling the city’s “uncontrolled growth and overdevelopment.”
During his tenure, Tecklenburg has helped the city find new ways to fight flooding with more than 30 drainage projects currently underway and the creation of the city’s Office of Resilience led by Dale Morris. He has led the city through snowstorms, hurricanes, a global pandemic, riots and protests, and found new ways to establish affordable housing.