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Will Riley seek 9th Term?


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Riley silent on plans for new term

It sounds as if Riley is going to retire, and this Agnew guy seems very qualified. Since Riley has been the only mayor of Charleston in my memory, it will seem odd for someone else to be the mayor. If he does step down, his successor will have huge shoes to fill. Of course, if he does seek a 9th term, he would have my support.

Does anyone know much about this Agnew guy? Any other names out there?

If Riley does retire, I hope he writes a book, I would be the first to buy it. Who knows, maybe he will run for GOVERNOR again!!

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Riley has been the Mayor for what 28 years? He is one of the longest serving mayors in the nation, and he is nationally recognized as one of the best mayors. I see no reason why he won't get re-elected. I am a pretty consistent republican but I know that I would vote for him if I lived in Chas.

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When did he run for governor?

He ran in 1994.

This is a not-so-short description of how it went down.

Carroll Campbell was in his second term and could not run again. Since 1980 the GOP had been gaining offices and power steadily. This was especially true under Campbell's tenure. He persauded many conservative Democrat legislators to switch parties. He helped elect Republicans to other state offices, including several never held by a Republican since Reconstruction. The GOP had pretty much reached parity with the Democrats. It was thought that if the GOP kept the Governor's mansion in 1994, they would become the dominate party.

However, the GOP candidates for Governor did not have the stature of Campbell. The contenders were 1) David Beasley, a state Representative (one of Campbell's Democrat converts) from Darlington County 2) Arthur Ravenel, a then maverick congressman from Charleston (previously and subsequently he served as a state senator from Chas.) 3) Jim Miles, the incumbent Secretary of State, who had good name recogition but was in a minor office. There may have been a fourth candidate, but not a significant one as I recall.

Beasley had the backing of Campbell's campaign organization, but he lacked a "base". He was only a state rep, had only been ELECTED as a Democrat, was from a small county that was reliably Democratic, and his youth detracted from his credibility. In order to get a 'base', he heavily persued the support of the "Christian Coalition", and based his campaign on "Family Values" with a "putting Families First" campaign theme. He campaigned against abortion and gambling (video poker, lotteries), etc.

Initially, Beasley was not making a lot of progress, but then Dick Harpootlian, made a comment about Beasley at a political convention about "speaking in tongues". The comment infuriated the Christian Coalition and they went to Beasley's camp in droves. Coupled with the expertise and money of Campbell's organization, he was able to beat Ravenel in the GOP runoff.

Meanwhile over on the Democratic side, there were several candidates ready to take back the Governor's mansion as well. Polls actually showed a majority of voters preferred a Democrat to be the next governor at the outset of the campaign season.

For years, it was well known in political circles that Riley would run, and it was expected he would be a top contender. However, Nick Theodore, a two term Lt. Governor was well known and had at least won statewide twice. Frankly, he was more LIKED than RESPECTED, but any LT. Gov. starts as a serious contender. There were other Dem. candidates too, put it was widely recognized as a Riley-Theodore contest.

Riley was well-known and respected in the Democratic party for his leadership of Charleston and his pro-Civil Rights tenure in the legislature (1968-1974). He had been President of the US Conference of Mayors, and was nationally recognized among US mayors. He biggest minus was that he had never run for statewide office, and had not had serious opposition as Mayor in several years. A hard fought statewide race with a prinmary and a general election would require a lot of his attention, and he still was serving as Mayor, which in Charleston is full-time.

Theodore, on the other hand was free to travel the state at will, as he had already done for 8 years as Lt. Governor.

The biggest problem for Riley was that around 1993, the Defense Department released a list of base closings. Charleston's naval Base was on it. Every base on the list lobbied to get it's base taken off the list. Charleston was no different, and Riley was the leader of the entire effort. This process went on for over a year and meant lots of time lobbying and working in Washington by Riley himself. His campaign supporters said he needed to spend more time on his campaign for Governor, but he insisted that he concentrate on trying to keep the base open.

This was the first round of base closings, and there was a common perception that any changes to the list would unravel the whole process. Needless to say these closings are hugely political and unpredictable.

Despite a united and persistant effort, the Charleston base stayed on the list and it was closed. Frankly, it was probably a very noble but doomed effort from the start. However, it cost Riley months of precious time in getting political endorsements and raising money. This allowed Theodore to nearly win the Democratic nomination outright. Theodore got 49% of the vote with Riley at about 26%. In a mere two weeks, Riley, who had barely even kept Theodore in a runoff, had to close the gap.

To have beaten Theodore in the runoff, would have been the biggest upset in the history of the SC Democratic party. In the end, Riley missed it by 1,600 votes. The vote was so close that a recount was mandated by state law. The recount narrowed the gap, but didn't change the result.

The split in the Denocratic party proved fatal in November. Riley endorsed Theodore, but bitterness remained between the two camps. Theodore's momentum from his strong primary showing was lost by his weak showing two weeks later.

Beasley ecked out a 50.5% win in November. While he did win, his weakness was obvious. 1994 was a HUGE Republican year nationwide, the incumbent GOP governor was quite popular and the rest of the statewide GOP ticket did very well. In fact, Beasley's percentage was the lowest among the GOP statewide winners.

But a win by 1 vote is still a win. To the winner goes the power. With a few more Democratic defections, in the weeks after the election, the GOP took control of the State House of Representatives for the first time since Reconstruction.

Some years later, the Senate went GOP majority as well. The GOP is the undisputed dominant party now and they hold both US Senate seats and 5 of 6 US House seats. 1994 was indeed the watershed year and who knows what might have happened if 800 Theodore voters had instead voted for Riley. In my opinion, if Riley had pulled it off, he would have beaten Beasley. Had that happened, this state would be in infintely better shape than it currently is.

P.S. As for Beasley, he was defeated himself four years later, and brought down two other statewide GOP candidates in his wake. But that was more a fact of Beasley's weakness. The domiance of the GOP has already been re-established.

P.P.S. Riley was elected Mayor in December 1975, when he completes this term, he will have been Mayor 32 years.

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  • 1 month later...

This man has been mayor almost since I was born. I remember reading about Gaillard being the mayor before Riley, but a year and a half after my birth, Riley was in office. I do like many of the things he has done, but I really think somebody else needs to take over.

This is a position that I myself would run for, if I lived down there currently. My plan for getting this position is to first try to get on the city council, stay there for a few terms, then run for mayor. And no, I'm not joking!

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