Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Stavrinakis lost the election as much as Tecklenburg won it

Ruckus in the Romper Room

Posted by Chris Haire on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 1:59 PM

It is impossible to write about John Tecklenburg's victory yesterday without focusing on the actions of the other candidates in the race, specifically Leon Stavrinakis and Ginny Deerin. In fact, you might even be able to go as far as to suggest that T-Burg is now the mayor-elect because of Leon and Ginny and their ill-fated decisions to attack each other.

Going into the 2015 Charleston mayoral race, it was always Stavrinakis' race to lose. He had the most name recognition and the most experience. He had a hefty war chest and a whole host of A-List endorsements, including what seemed like the Holy City's entire Statehouse legislative delegation. He was even polling higher than all the other candidates. But then Deerin ripped the angel wings from her back, picked up a pitchfork, and stuck Stavrinakis in his thin-skinned ass.

And it was then that the Stavrinakis campaign not only took its first misstep, but ran so far away from the campaign trail, Leon couldn't find his way back.

Stavrinakis' so-called Unity press conference was a heavy-handed mic drop featuring a cast of band-aids who would willingly do Leon's bidding, most notably proclaiming that Deerin's attack ad somehow dishonored the Emanuel Nine. The move backfired, and the public saw an ugliness in Leon they hadn't seen before. Strangely enough, all of this came as Stavrinakis was proclaiming that he was above negative campaigning, a charge that would later come back to haunt him.

What's crazy here is that even at this time, Stavrinakis was still polling higher than both Deerin and Tecklenburg, who, smartly, chose to remain out of the fray, except for a moment when he condemned an anonymous smear mailer targeting Deerin and her sexuality.

Whether or not Stavrinakis or one of his supporters was behind the mailer is irrelevant. These type of tactics are common in South Carolina politics, as Will Moredock points out in his column this week. 

click to enlarge DUSTIN WATERS FILE PHOTO
  • Dustin Waters file photo
Along the way there was a report that the Stavrinakis camp staged a camera shot so Leon wouldn't be seen exiting his Range Rover and another that his campaign had misquoted one of the speakers at his anti-Deerin Unity presser, a misquote that was evidently so egregious the speaker said she felt "violated."

On Election Night Nov. 7, it got worse. With Stavrinakis and Tecklenburg making the run-off — Deerin was a distant third, with Teck taking the most votes — Leon turned his sights on attacking T-Burg, even going as far as to brand John as a developer and to treat the term as a pejorative, along the lines of calling someone a racist or a child molester. It was yet another mistake, not simply because it wasn't exactly true, but because Leon himself had taken significant amounts of money from developers. 

At this point, it was clear that the Stavrinakis campaign was scared. And his ads and press conferences reflected that. 

This time, he attacked Teck for supporting the West Ashley bridge bike study, a move that angered the progressive crowd, and later by condemning Tecklenburg's membership in the Coastal Conservation League, an esteemed local environmental group whose leader, Dana Beach, is honored year after year by City Paper readers as the Best Community Activist. That Leon somehow thought Tecklenburg's association with the CCL and his willingness to test the hypothesis that closing a bike lane on the West Ashley bridge would do little to affect traffic was an unpardonable sin which caused folks like myself to scratch their heads while the town's greenies seethed with Earth Fare anger. 

And then there was the press conference where Leon debated a empty podium. It was an embarrassingly hackish stunt that didn't so much as point out Tecklenburg's unwillingness to debate Stavrinakis but harkened back to Clint Eastwood's empty chair embarrassment during the 2012 Republican National Convention, arguably the nadir of modern political theater. 

Faced with a challenger who was committing political seppuku right before the public's eyes, all John Tecklenburg had to do was sit back and smile, which was more or less the same tactic he employed when it first threw his hat into the race. 

All of this isn't to say that Teck lacks the right qualifications to be mayor. The guy's got the executive skills and the business smarts to succeed in the office. He's also got a big, people-lovin' heart. Most importantly, he's got the good enough sense to not to get rattled when his teething, temper tantrum-throwing opponent is rattling a rattler in the air like it's a sharpened saber, begging T-Burg to join him in a pillow fight for control of the romper room Diaper Genie.

And that, my friends, is how John Tecklenburg was elected the next mayor of the wonderful, wonderful city of Charleston, S.C.





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