How will you Columbians vote tomorrow?

Who will succeed this guy, shown on the night of his 2010 victory?

No, not Colombians. I mean you people who live in that big town across the river from me.

I just thought I’d ask, before the election happens.

First, Columbians — and many of you are my friends, if I may use that word — please tell me you are going to vote. And too few do, in these elections. Far, far too few. And then, if you don’t mind, tell us whom you support, and why.

I’d tell you who I’d pick, but honestly, I don’t feel qualified to say. First, I haven’t kept up with city issues the way I did at the paper, when we kicked around those and other local matters every day in our morning meeting. And of course, I haven’t interviewed the candidates — even in the truncated form in which I once did it here on the blog.

My easiest-to-imagine leaning is toward Sam Johnson for mayor. But I’m aware that that’s because of — if I may use the word — he and his team are sort of in my friend circle. While I had trouble choosing between him and the late Steve Morrison during the election of 2010 — Morrison would have been an excellent mayor — I’ve been supportive of Steve Benjamin since then. And Sam and Michael Wukela have been very much his guys (Michael is doing communications for Sam, as I did for James three years ago). I like all those guys. Not that we are always on the same side.

Of course, being buds with people may be one of the most common reasons some would back a candidate. It’s not good enough for me, though. I need to know more. I need to have put in the time.

I also like Tameika Isaac Devine, although I don’t know her quite as well. I’ve been pretty pleased since she was elected — a remarkable election in that she proved for the first time that a black woman didn’t have to be gerrymandered into an easy district to get elected in Columbia. Also, I’m very impressed that while Sam has Mayor Benjamin’s support (as you’d expect), Tameika is backed by Howard Duvall. And there’s no one whose informed views of municipal issues I respect more than Howard’s.

So I’m sort of cheering for Sam, but I could see myself cheering for Tameika as well. If I were a Columbia resident, or still editorial page editor with the responsibility of endorsing, I’d have informed myself well enough to confidently propose a choice between them.

But I haven’t.

Meanwhile, I doubt any sort of closer examination of Daniel Rickenmann would cause me to choose him. Maybe it would, but my gut says no. I’ve seen anecdotal evidence that quite a few white business types in town are for him, however. As for Moe, well, no thanks.

As Bryan likes to say, your mileage may vary. Which brings me to my point: Never mind what I think. I’ve admitted I just don’t know. What do y’all think? And why?

38 thoughts on “How will you Columbians vote tomorrow?

  1. Bobby Amundson

    I’ve known Daniel a long time. Change is good. I fear Sam is just going to continue Columbia politics as usual; capitol projects (Steve is a developer) as maintenance is deferred. I talked with my representative Seth Rose last night and we didn’t even discuss today’s election!

    Hard to believe I am in New York State and I am not even going to vote. I am in Rochester NY, hiking trails and exploring Lake Ontario. The modern “built” environment is so much more robust here; it does get cold, but skiing!

    I am buying businesses, living and “teaching” Social Entrepreneurship in the Modern Mobile Economy. Our Youth are our future – #listentothechildren #listeningtothechildren #classof2022 #wewantbarneysbullet #meanpeoplesuck #unicornstrong

    1. Bobby Amundson

      I really like Howard but he went to the dark side -Municipal Association of South Carolina and the Columbia Restructuring Government Commission (I helped write the final report with Bill Boyd). Tameika is wonderful, however I am not entirely comfortable with Jamie’s work on the Richland One School Board. I have described Midland’s Politics as “incestuous.” Brad and Cindy understand SC Politics are still “that.”

      I did (do?) organizational and economic development; politicians mostly got in the way. I don’t work for the government so “SHOW ME THE MONEY!” I like that change 🙂

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I believe so. That would be the usual way in SC.

      Jeffrey Collins at the AP mentioned that scenario this morning…

  2. Barry

    I don’t live in Columbia or Richland.

    I just know most everyone I know prefers to drive to Greenville, Charleston or Charlotte for restaurants, art events, and family outings. All 3 cities spend a lot of money advertising to families in Columbia.

    Not sure I’ve ever heard anyone that doesn’t live in Columbia or the area say they are going to Columbia for arts or to enjoy downtown other than to a USC athletic event.

    There is so much buzz about Greenville with the people I know. I admit, it’s a fun place to visit. Very safe to walk around downtown and it’s very nice and attractive. The Peace Center area near the river there is fantastic. So many young professionals are there now. You don’t feel like you are in South Carolina. Businesses are absolutely flocking there.

    Right or wrong, the outside perception is Columbia is mismanaged and they make it hard for businesses. The result is young professionals from other areas aren’t interested.

    Columbia screwed up by not putting their baseball stadium down right on the river and growing the area around it as a destination area with new restaurants, businesses and music venues. The area is walkable and would have been perfect for the baseball stadium as a centerpiece.

    I think people like me have given up on Columbia. I spend plenty of money traveling to Greenville and Charlotte for shows, hotels, dining, and events. It’s been a long time since I even considered Columbia as an option. I am not alone.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, you got this right, anyway:

      Columbia screwed up by not putting their baseball stadium down right on the river and growing the area around it as a destination area with new restaurants, businesses and music venues. The area is walkable and would have been perfect for the baseball stadium as a centerpiece.

      And of course, a ballpark WAS built on the river. But it was the wrong part of the river, and USC didn’t want to share it…

      I had a plan. It did not become reality. From this blog in 2005:

      As part of its effort to make the unworkable workable, USC wants to take the pedestrian footbridge that led visitors into the old Central Correctional Institution and move it to its proposed new “stadium” location in the Vista. This is precisely the opposite of what should have happened. A joint-use ballpark — for the Gamecocks and a minor-league professional team — should have been located on the old CCI property, which always has been the perfect location. But that’s not going to happen now, is it — not after the city gave up on years of feckless attempts to do something else with the property, and sold it to a developer to build condos — like we need more of those — and, oh yeah, some houses. Well, I’ve got a house. What I don’t have is a ballpark down by the river where I can watch both first-class college and minor-league baseball….

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Actually, that was at the very beginning of the blog, and it was one of the first columns from the paper I included on the blog. From that point on, I wanted everybody to go to my blog to read my columns, because that’s where the links were.

        In those early days, I would just do a boring blog headline, and include the hed from the paper down in the copy. The blog headline was, “August 21 column, with links.” The headline in the paper was “Field in my dreams,” which stated the case.

        And it was fitting for such a vision, which had started years before when CCI was still operating. I knew what a hellhole CCI was, but I had one warm memory about it: On Sundays, we would be driving home from Mass at St. Peter’s, and as we came down Taylor Street toward the river, we would be driving directly toward the prison yard of CCI. And I would see the prisoners out in the sun playing baseball (or maybe softball; I never had more than a few seconds to see it clearly and it was a long time ago).

        So the one pleasant, sunny image I had of that historic location was guys playing ball. It just seemed perfect as the location of Columbia’s baseball future. It had that sort of “If you build it, they will come” association in my mind. You may say my memory and vision was darker than Kinsella’s, since it was about prisoners, but think about it. That story was about the scandalous 1919 Black Sox, Shoeless Joe and the rest. It was about loss and redemption as much as baseball….

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        I went back and reread that whole column. I like it. Not because anybody listened to me or did what I wanted. Not even my friends who worked for me were on board:

        My colleagues on the editorial board keep counseling me, in the kind of soothing tones you use to calm the delusional and overexcited, to accept reality and move on. They say minor-league ball way out in the Northeast is as good as it’s gonna get. They say the only thing wrong with the USC deal is the parking. They say my riverside dreams were never in the cards, and can never, ever happen in the future. One said, “As long as you’re dreaming, are you going to throw in your rapid-transit system, too?” To which I said, “You betcha. I’m gonna ride the train from my house to the ballpark.” They say climb down off the ledge and put down the baseball bat, please.

        Did I listen? No way, baby. Because I had vision, and the rest of the world was wearing bifocals…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          By the way, you understand, I hope, that this is a good illustration of the difference between an editorial and a column, which most of the world still doesn’t understand.

          That HAD to be a column because the rest of the board wasn’t with me on it. If they had been, it could have been an editorial.

          Of course, that may seem irrelevant to you kids, since nowadays the paper doesn’t even have an actual editorial board, to the best of my knowledge. But it’s a very important point to understanding anything you read from the days when such things existed.

          You probably don’t think the distinction between a man-of-war and an Indiaman back during the Napoleonic wars is important, or the difference between the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. But I do. I’m like that…

      3. Barry

        I got the rest of it right too.

        If you’ve spent any time at an event at The Peace Center in Greenville or in the area behind the center, you’d see what smart development can do for a city.

        1. Ken

          I know Greenville. I grew up there. The downtown is nice (save for that ugly glass and steel box that houses city hall). But Greenville hasn’t gotten the balance right quite yet. For one, it hasn’t done much about blighted areas — other than drive out the previous populations there (i.e. move out Black folk and replace them with yuppie White folk who will frequent the fru-fru dining spots that replaced older, home-grown establishments). Downtown’s Westend is an example. Gentrification isn’t the answer.

          1. Barry

            Has any city done enough about blighted areas? Getting rid of all blighted areas is like saying let’s get rid of dirt of oxygen. It’s not happening.

            I’ve never seen one yet – and what is “enough” anyway? Some of the areas (not all) don’t seem to want any improvement, help, or change. They sure don’t want someone coming in to tell them what to do. Some seem perfectly happy with the status quo which would be unacceptable to most people.

            Greenville is absolutely busting at the seams with small and medium size businesses looking for workers. New ones are opening up all the time. That’s been the case for years now.

            While many of their places of business require skilled tradespeople or technically skilled people, if you have a high school education and do not have severe drug issues, you can land a job fast in Greenville and work your way out of poverty relatively quick and not have to wait around on the government or anyone else.

            I have a few customers in the area that have been absolutely knocking over every woodpile in the area looking for workers for good jobs in a manufacturing or industrial environment that pay near $20 an hour with solid benefits to start.

            I’m not here to push or sell Greenville. I don’t live there. But I do know it’s a great town to visit for a day or two. They’ve turned it into a destination town for people in the region.

            A lot of young professionals and young families I know love to take a day trip or stay overnight there to visit and if there is a good show in town, lot of ticket buyers are from the Columbia area.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              “Has any city done enough about blighted areas? Getting rid of all blighted areas is like saying let’s get rid of dirt of oxygen. It’s not happening.”

              Taking that in a slightly different direction…

              To engage in a bit of sophistry, of course, there is a sort of mathematical improbability in eliminating poverty. If suddenly everyone makes more than 100 grand, and 90 percent of people make more than 200 grand, then those only making 100,000 to 200,000 will be the “poor.” But still, of course, that would be a fine goal to work toward.

              Shifting again slightly…

              I’ve been reading, off and on, an interesting book: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari. I’m almost done, and when I’m done I’ll write something more extensive about it. But in the meantime, just a taste…

              While he doesn’t make a thing of it, it’s apparent from the book that Harari is an atheist. To him, religion is merely is a human invention. But religion should not be offended, because he believes almost anything that involves ideas of any kind — capitalism, communism, monarchy, liberalism, chivalry, money, what have you — is a creative fiction that our species has come up with to help our social order function.

              When it comes to religion specifically, he’s fair-minded — assessing each creed dispassionately in terms of its usefulness in achieving the goals of such fictions.

              At one point, he quotes what Jesus said when Judas complained about the expensive oil being used to anoint Jesus, saying it could have been sold to give the proceeds to the poor. Jesus says what the woman is doing is right, because: “The poor you will always have with you. But you will not always have me.”

              Harari uses it not to illustrate a point related to faith or charity. He’s saying Jesus had a fatalistic attitude toward the poor. Which is not really what Jesus meant, but that’s not relevant. Harari isn’t saying that to tear down the carpenter’s character, or indicate that he was focused on himself and didn’t care about the poor. He’s saying it illustrates the pre-scientific outlook on the world. He’s saying that before the scientific revolution, people accepted that what always had been would always be. The modern mind is more likely to attempt to change the world so that things are no longer so.

              I realized I just made several points that are not obviously related, but those things were just running through my head, and I thought I’d toss them out there…

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                The larger point Harari makes about the scientific approach is this: It assumes we don’t know much, and we have to keep working to find out new things about the universe. The pre-scientific mind believed that all was known, or had been known in the past — you just had to listen to the right priest or king or juju man who already knew it to gain the wisdom yourself…

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  It makes people more open to change, and change more likely to happen. Which is why the world has been changing so rapidly over the last couple of centuries…

            2. Ken

              Yes, blight has been dealt with in a lot of urban areas. But my point wasn’t blight per se, but HOW it’s eliminated. Too often it’s by pushing out certain people, even obliterating the areas they formerly lived (putting a highway through it, for example) and then attracting a different group of people. Rather than by improving livability for those already there.

              As for the other, sorry, but that’s just a lotta bootstrapping claptrap.

              1. Barry

                Certainly, some areas change so fast and become the “hip” place and those living there can’t afford to live there anymore.

                That even happens in rural areas sometimes.

                But I’ve yet to see a city that has handled all their blighted areas. Greenville certainly hasn’t. But I’ve yet to see a city that has accomplished that feat- and if you point one out- I’ll find some comments from folks who say they got left behind unfairly and it “wasn’t done right.”

                The “other” is simply my opinion as someone who visits Greenville 3-4 times a month on business and for pleasure and happens to know a lot of folks my age who do the same thing- skipping over Columbia to spend their money there for the valid reasons I stated above.

                1. Ken

                  “Certainly, some areas change so fast and become the ‘hip’ place and those living there can’t afford to live there anymore.”

                  Sorry, but these things don’t just happen. They are made to happen. Choices are made to bring those changes about that work to the advantage of one group and to the disadvantage of another. And please don’t fall back on the lazy notion of the marketplace doing its thing all on its own. The fact that Greenville has chosen to attract people like you to the detriment of some of its own native populations should tell us something.

                  1. Barry

                    Yes, when Greenville and Max Heller and then Knox White made the decision decades ago to clean up Main Street and the areas around it so families could come back downtown to walk down Main Street without fear of a crime being committed against them, that favored some groups.

                    That seems to bother you. I’m sorry. But I don’t care.

                    As a result of their efforts, businesses felt safe again to locate in downtown, and then historic renovation efforts like at The Westin Poinsett showed a commitment that Greenville was going to try to be a safe, nice, historic city for visitors and residents.

                    That effort has wonderfully transformed the city and people have flocked there to live.

                    I agree.

                    1. Ken

                      You keep missing the point. Like you, I shouldn’t care. But I’ll try once more — in very simple terms:

                      I don’t believe that ridding downtown Greenville of its most of its Black businesses and residents, Iike those that used to be in the Westend), is the only way it could have been cleaned up. Maybe you do.

                    2. Barry

                      You are just complaining to complain. That’s fine. That’s your choice.

                      Greenville has done an incredible job supporting black owned businesses allowing many to thrive.

                      I was struck that in the Columbia mayoral debate on WLTX, both candidates spent time talking about the great job Greenville has done and how they are a model for a city like Columbia to aspire to.

                      I agree.

                    3. Ken

                      I find it rather revealing that you don’t know how to deal with the issue: which is that Greenville’s urban renewal was carried out to a significant degree by removing the former Black presence from its downtown. Did you grow up in Greenville? I did. So I think I know a little more about this than you do.

              1. Bill

                it’s YOUR blog but slang like,’froufrou’ is so pedestrian and approaches ineffingcivilieffing T !

    2. Phillip

      I believe you when you say that about “not sure I’ve ever heard anyone that doesn’t live in Columbia or the area say they are going to Columbia for arts or to enjoy downtown” which makes it doubly amazing to me that so much is going on and still surviving in the “kinda-post-worst-of-covid” era. I always kind of assumed it was just myopia on the part of Greenvillians or Charlestonians, but then again they have a lot there so why travel to Columbia. At least we do have a big enough metropolitan area that institutions like the Museum of Art do well, or that there even is an SC Philharmonic.

      There are some things we have, however, that Charlotte doesn’t have arts-wise. We need to do a better job promoting it. Traffic in Columbia seems heavier than ever, so somebody must be moving here! (I guess a lot of it is just the growth in USC enrollment, not permanent residents).

      I predict Rickenmann will win the runoff, but it will be pretty close, maybe 52-48%. Happy that Aditi Bussells led the pack in at-large City Council race and I hope she prevails in the runoff.

  3. Barry


    NC Senate passes extreme gerrymandered US House map giving GOP 71-78% of seats in state Trump won with 49.9% of vote

  4. Bill

    I support the left, tho’ I’m leanin’, leanin’ to the right
    I support the left, tho’ I’m leanin’ to the right
    But I’m just not there when it’s coming to a fight.
    Hey now baby, get into my big black car
    Hey now baby, get into my big black car
    I wanna just show you what my politics are.

  5. Doug Ross

    Columbia should have either winner-take-all elections or ranked choice voting. Runoffs are a waste of resources. With ranked choice voting, Isaac-Devine would almost assuredly be the winner because of the way Columbia votes demographically (we like to pretend that voting based solely on race is just a problem when the candidate is white).

    We can expect more of the same out of Columbia city government… grand plans that fizzle out… money funneled to family and friends of elected officials… wasted money on road taxes and hospitality taxes…

  6. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, I led the post that way because I keep hearing gringos pronounce “Colombia” exactly the same way they do “Columbia.” Drives me crazy. Are they just TRYING to be confusing?…

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