27-year-old first-timer challenges incumbent in runoff election for Columbia City Council at-large seat

27-year-old first-timer challenges incumbent in runoff election for Columbia City Council at-large seat

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -Voters in Columbia will head back to the polls for a city council runoff election, Tuesday. None of the candidates for the council’s at-large seat earned more than 50% of the vote in municipal elections exactly two weeks ago.

The race started out with four candidates and this time voters will choose between just two.

That would be the top two from the last face-off, when incumbent Howard Duvall finished with 44%, and challenger Sara Middleton was not far behind with 36% of the vote.

The two really could not be any more different. One candidate has decades of experience in local politics, while the other is running for office for the very first time.

Duvall began his political career when he was elected to the Cheraw City Council back in 1973, where he was eventually elected mayor. He’s been serving in local politics ever since as has been a part of Columbia City Council since 2015.

Middleton, is a businesswoman and healthcare attorney who has never run for public office before. The 27-year-old believes the city needs a fresh perspective to tackle modern problems, saying, “Age really has nothing to do with it. I think, it goes back to how do we see the future of Columbia. What do we see us becoming?”

Duvall says what works for him is that he’s known to work for the people.

“I have had a reputation of being responsive to the people, being able to take care of their problems and being able to work with them with the city to make things right for the constituents,”Duvall said.

He helped to add e-cigarettes to the city’s ordinance banning smoking in public places.

The differences between the candidates can be heard in their visions for the city’s future.

“The activity in Five Points – moving towards making it like the village it used to be. A peaceful village that had nice activities in it, that had nice restaurants, that had nice retail and not taken over by late night bars and students that are drinking underage in that area,”Duvall said.

Middleton expressed that the city did not have a business-friendly atmosphere and with out that quality people turn away from investing in the city or bring their employees.

"They don’t want to bring jobs. They don’t want to bring investment to the City of Columbia, because we’re not moving forward. Pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and e-scooters – we’re looking at what all these other cities are doing that’s working,” Middleton said.

Voters have between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM to get to the polls.

Copyright 2019 WIS. All rights reserved.