For the majority of the 2015 mayoral race, Leon Stavrinakis has played the cool-as-ice role as a frontrunner. Hell, you might even say that he has acted more like an incumbent than a man trying to replace a mayor who has been in office for the past 40 years.
That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Leon is easily the most recognizable name in the Charleston mayoral race. He's a former county councilman and a current state representative. And everybody has known for quite some time that he was just biding his time to run for mayor.
The truth is, this race has been Leon's since he entered it and other top-billing candidates decided not to give it a go. The problem for many people, is a perception that Stavrinakis has acted as if he is entitled to the job. Not surprisingly, this, coupled with Stavrinakis' not-exactly people-friendly demeanor, has rubbed some folks the wrong way.
Surely, Stavrinakis' opponent John Tecklenburg saw this weakness and has tried to position himself as the Guy Smiley of the 2015 mayoral crew. T-Burg has raised quite a bit of money and won over quite a number of voters, and he looks as if he has a solid shot at facing Leon in a run-off — and there will be a run-off.
And if it's not Tecklenfuzz, it'll be Ginny Deerin, a former Riley administration insider and the founder of the very successful WINGS for Kids nonprofit organization.
So far, Deerin has focused her campaign on Charleston's transportation woes, which, as anyone who has actually lived in a major city knows, really aren't that bad. They're more temporarily annoying then anything. That goes without saying that if you live in Summerville and work in Charleston, North Chuck, or Mt. P, well, you get what you deserve — a rush-hour crawl on I-26.
Regardless, the move was a smart one on Ginny's part. People perceive that we have a dire traffic problem and therefore we do. Of course, that's not to say that we won't have one in the future. With the entire state of Ohio relocating here, we will soon enough.
Besides that, there really haven't been too many issues that separate Leon from Deerin and Deerin from Tecklin-Me Elmo. But now it's crunch time and Ginny and Tink have to make moves that position themselves in the runoff and not as also-rans like the rest of the pack.
Not surprising given Deerin's aggressive campaign from the onset, she was the first to fire a wartime salvo, launching an ad criticizing Stavrinakis for being in the pockets of developers — a rather prevalent and not unfounded view — and for failing to tackle the issue she has pinned her hopes and dreams on: transportation.
Now, you would expect Stavrinakis to respond to this attack, and you would be right. However, the way in which he has is downright shameful: he decided to play the Mother Emanuel card. Let me explain.
Earlier today, Leon called a press conference shaming Deerin, and he surrounded himself with his supporters — among them state Rep. Peter McCoy, Joe Riley III, and the City Paper's own Dwayne Green, who has written strongly in favor of the Beach Company's efforts to build new housing on the Sgt. Jasper site downtown. (Ginny opposes the new development.)
Following that conference, Stavrinakis' team sent out a press release summing up the sentiments of the parties involved in the presser, each one taking Deerin to task for airing a negative ad, that election-year bugaboo that every candidate condemns but, who, in the dark of the back-room night, plants a kiss on that demon's ass, pledging their eternal servitude. Osculum infame, bitches.
First up, Leon himself: "For the last 40 years, we have had one of the most positive mayors in the entire country and I think the voters of Charleston want to keep it that way. Unfortunately, Ginny Deerin disagrees. After all we've been through, Charleston deserves better than false, negative attacks from a person simply trying to win an election."
And then Mayor Riley's very son, Joe 3.0: "These negative ads aren't true and are designed to tear us apart. Charleston has been through a lot and we deserve better than this. My Dad has been Mayor of Charleston for nearly 40 years. In all his years, he never ran a singe negative ad. That's the Riley way."
And Robin Berlinsky, the executive director of the nonprofit Engaging Creative Minds: "It’s more important than ever to keep Charleston together. We are here to say that we will not allow our city to be divided and to stand with Leon Stavrinakis. Over the last year, our unity is what has kept us together. It’s very unfortunate that we have a candidate for Mayor threatening that unity with a negative and divisive campaign."
And finally, Bibleway Baptist Church Rev. Lawrence Bratton: "Over the last year, Charleston has shown the world what unity and togetherness is all about. It is so important that our candidates for mayor continue to campaign in a way that keeps us together. I am here today asking all the candidates to put our city first. To put our people first. And to preserve the spirit of unity and togetherness that has gotten [us] through the last year."
That's a lot of ammunition in response to one rather tepid campaign ad. I mean, we live in a world where campaigns don't shy away from calling their opponents godless heathens, terrorist sympathizers, and Kenyan anti-colonists.
So with that in mind, couldn't Leon have responded with an ad or a press conference simply refuting Ginny's charges? Apparently not. Instead, the Stavrinakis camp had to say that Ginny Deerin's one ad threatened the unity that we all now feel in Charleston in the wake of the Mother Emanuel shootings. To make matters worse, Leon's team is effectively saying that directly challenging another candidate is off the table in this election cycle because it's a direct slight against the Emanuel Nine. WTF.
Honestly, I've seen a lot of craven behavior in politics, but I've never seen something quite like today's "Deerin is the new Dylann Roof" shame swarm. Ginny has every right to publicly question — nay, condemn — Leon's positions and his past votes. And Stavrinakis should respond in kind, not invoke the most terrible event in recent Charleston history for cheap political gain.