by Paul Bowers
With more than six months to go until Election Day, seven candidates for mayor of Charleston have collectively raised $1,046,436 for their campaigns. In the last mayoral election in 2011, the total amount raised by all candidates was just over a half-million dollars, with the bulk of it ($434,000) raised by incumbent Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr.
According to the most recent filings with the State Ethics Commission, State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis is out in the lead with about $310,000, which he raised in just over two months after announcing his candidacy on Feb. 2.
Here's an updated list of the announced candidates for mayor and their fundraising totals:
• Virginia "Ginny" Deerin, nonprofit organization founder: $217,802.13
• William Dudley Gregorie, city councilman: $36,929.41
• Dean C. Riegel, city councilman and senior vice president of business development at Carolina Center for Occupational Health: $0
• Leonidas E. "Leon" Stavrinakis, state representative and attorney: $310,103
• John J. Tecklenburg, commercial realtor and former city director of economic development: $266,766.24
• Paul E. Tinkler, attorney and former city councilman: $208,135
• Maurice Washington, insurance and consulting business owner, former City Council member: $6,700
November's mayoral race will be the first in 40 years not to include incumbent Mayor Riley, who has announced that he will not run for office again. Predictably, Riley's announcement opened up the field, with more than a dozen contenders saying as early as the fall of 2013 that they would consider a run.
One newcomer in the race is former City Council member Maurice Washington, who filed his first fundraising report with the State Ethics Commission on April 21 but has not officially announced he is running for mayor. "I do intend to announce officially next month," he said when reached by phone today. Washington, who owns an insurance and consulting business, previously ran for the state Senate as a Democrat in 2013.
Municipal elections in Charleston are nonpartisan, but it's worth mentioning that all of the fundraising frontrunners so far are Democrats. (Riley, a longtime champion of progressive causes in the city, previously served as a Democrat in the state House and ran in a Democratic primary for governor in 1994.)
Stavrinakis serves as a Democrat in the state House of Representatives, and Tinkler ran as a Democrat for state Senate in 2012. Tecklenburg has the endorsement of former Democratic Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, whose final re-election campaign Tecklenburg managed in 1998. Deerin, who previously managed several of Riley's re-election campaigns, ran as a Democrat for Secretary of State in 2014.
Gregorie has never run for office as a partisan candidate, but some of his major pushes on City Council, including an anti-discrimination proposal based on sexual orientation, hardly smacked of Republicanism. He has previously made multiple attempts to unseat Riley as mayor.
The closest candidate to a Republican in the race so far is City Councilman Dean Riegel, who announced his candidacy at a Republican protest against the Affordable Care Act in October 2013.
A filing deadline for the mayoral election has not yet been set, but it will likely be in mid-August. That leaves plenty of time for more candidates to enter the fray.
City Councilman Mike Seekings, long rumored to be considering a run for mayor, still has not made an announcement one way or the other. The internet domain mikeseekingsformayor.com was registered on Feb. 4.
Marc Knapp, a utility contractor and perennial candidate for mayor, has said he is considering a run but has not made a formal announcement.
State Rep. Wendell Gilliard told the City Paper in November 2014 that he was running for mayor, but he never made a formal announcement and never filed fundraising paperwork with the Ethics Commission. Reached by phone today, Gilliard said he would not be running for mayor.
"My aspiration — and I've stated publicly from day one when I was serving on City Council — I wanted to go to Washington as a Congressman in the Sixth Congressional District. I have some ideas for those counties to move them into the 21st Century. That's always been my position," Gilliard said.
Two previously announced candidates, restaurateur Dick Elliott and commercial realtor Henry Fishburne, have withdrawn their candidacy. Elliott had raised about $161,000; Fishburne had raised about $84,000.