Hearing set on District Two council seat vote

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - An attorney for a Columbia man has filed a legal challenge aimed at delaying the election for the vacant District Two council seat.

Attorney Jay Bender is representing Paul Denman who believes residents of District Two need more time to pick a candidate. Bender and city attorney Ken Gaines met this morning with Circuit Court Judge James Barber.

"State law requires a minimum of 60 days notice prior to an election," said Bender. "It gives the people who want to run a chance to sound out potential supporters. It gives people who are running a chance to communicate with supporters."

The judge scheduled a hearing Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

The council moved for the April vote, believing state law required it to occur at the next general election. That's debatable, says Bender.

"I think general election is defined in the statute as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. But we'll see," said Bender.

Candidates for the seat include Alex Furgess, Harold "Puff" Howard, Brian DeQuincey Newman and Antonio Williams. Williams had been seeking an at-large seat, but has now switched to the race in District Two.

Filing began Monday and ends on Friday.

Howard, Furgess and Newman appeared on a radio forum Sunday night and laid out their platforms on a wide range of issues, including regaining trust and homelessness.

"I think for too long, many of the needs of people in our district - they've been ignored," said Alex Furgess.  "I have worked very hard and I dedicate myself to service."

Brian DeQuincey Newman said, "The reason I'm seeking this position is because I want a better community. Obviously I haven't been around as long, probably don't know everybody in the district the way I do. I think this position is about efficiency and getting things done."

"My thing is, I have long ties to the community and we need a place where families can move into the city not out of the city," said Harold "Puff" Howard.

The seat was held by E.W. Cromartie. He stepped down from office last week after agreeing to plead guilty to federal tax evasion charges.

Mayor Bob Coble led the effort to set the April voting date.

"By setting it on April 6, requesting an Attorney General's opinion, and obviously giving time for any court challenges, that allows in this case a judge in this instance, a judge to decide it," said Coble, "And so we'll have a definitive court resolution of what's the law says in this case. I think that's very helpful."

District Two residents are scheduled to vote on April 6. That's the same day that voters decide on a new mayor and other council seats.

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