Leon Stavrinakis addresses the crowd of supporters at his Election Night watch party
Everyone gathered at the Election Night watch party for Leon Stavrinakis keeps asking the same question: “Are the results for downtown in yet?”
For almost three hours, supporters for the frontrunner in the Charleston mayoral race have continued to fill the hotel banquet room at the Town & Country Inn and Suites to socialize and watch the results roll in. A majority of the crowd grazes by the tables of hors d’oeuvres and the bar while smiling kids run inbetween their legs and tug at their dress clothes.
Spirits have been high throughout the evening as Stavrinakis has maintained at least a 5 percent lead over his nearest challenger, John Tecklenburg, but a nervous anticipation is beginning to fill the room. Stavrinakis has yet to be seen, and word is he’s waiting for the final votes to be tallied before joining the party. With more than half of precincts reporting, it remains Stavrinakis’ race.
Less than three miles away at the Mellow Mushroom in Avondale, third-place candidate Ginny Deerin is preparing to concede defeat in the election. She would claim just over 17 percent of the votes. In her final campaign speech, Deerin says there’s no question that her team made a big impact on the election — an impact that will truly be felt in two weeks when Deerin’s supporters help elect the new mayor in a runoff between Stavrinakis and Tecklenburg.
Back at Stavrinakis’s party, the latest reports reveal that the top two candidates have pulled within 100 votes of one another. A man repeatedly refreshes the web page showing the election standings, which are being projected onto a giant screen at the front of the room. With each click, Tecklenburg gets closer to the lead. A woman in the crowd says things are getting too close for comfort, and the kids in attendance are starting to grow sleepy. Hoping that his victory speech can go live, Stavrinakis’ campaign team begins to coordinate with the news crews in attendance. It’s finally decided that he will make an appearance around 10 p.m., but in the meantime, Tecklenburg pulls into first. Unofficial results put him on top by a little fewer than 300 votes. Finally, Stavrinakis is ready to take the stage.
Stavrinakis makes his entrance to the song "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" by Jackie Wilson. He’s met with cheers of “Leon” as the music dies down. Then he begins to speak.
“After the most negative campaign in the modern history of Charleston elections, after over half a million dollars in negative ads dumped on top of us for the last month, we are still standing, baby,” he says.
Discussing his record as an elected official, Stavrinakis says he will take care of the city’s traffic problem and manage growth. Someone in the crowd later shouts, “Kick his ass, Leon.” Stavrinakis wastes no time taking the offensive against what is now his lone competitor.
John Tecklenburg discusses his campaign pledges during a press conference
“We’ve heard a lot about growth and development in Charleston, and if you’re concerned about growth and development, you could not have a more clear-cut choice in the next two weeks for your next mayor,” he says. “We cannot turn Charleston over to a mayor who is a developer.”
Tecklenburg would address Stavrinakis’ comments during a press conference the next day. During that same speech, Tecklenburg announces that if elected, he pledges to institute a one-year freeze on new hotel approvals and rezone sites like Sergeant Jasper to control over-development.
“Leon stated that I was a developer and that’s not my profession. It’s just not true,” says Tecklenburg. “I just don’t know how far they’ll go on putting out information that isn’t true.”