Benjamin, Finlay enter final hours before runoff election

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The clock is ticking until the runoff election for mayor between attorney Steve Benjamin and City Councilman Kirkman Finlay.

Both candidates spent the day furiously reaching out to voters in the 11th hour. The race has turned particularly heated in the last few days.

The final full day of campaigning in Columbia's mayor runoff took Benjamin to the Owen Steel plant.

Benjamin got a quick lesson in steel production, shook some hands, and promised to lead a job creation effort that includes the kind of heavy industry exhibited there along with high-tech and information-based business development.

"We must make sure that we, our economic development strategy is as broad and deep as it can possibly be," said Benjamin.

Benjamin's campaign shied away from further comment on revelations last week that Finlay had several unpaid tax bills.

Finlay meanwhile summoned reporters to the sidewalk at City Hall where he ripped Benjamin on that issue and others.

"When I signed the fair campaign practices pledge, I signed it because I refuse to win at any cost," said Finlay. "Honor and integrity are the foundation of good leadership. I am not willing to diminish them."

Finlay said he was not interested in running a negative campaign or smearing Benjamin.

Instead, some of his supporters were calling attention to a YouTube video they claim shows Benedict College students being bused to the county voter registration office to cast absentee ballots for Benjamin.

A young woman interviewed in the video says the students were given food and drinks as incentives.

That video does not show any of the so-called incentives being offered or exchanging hands.

A Benjamin spokesman said the campaign has tried to encourage people to register and vote. He says no one is being offered anything in exchange for voting.

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