Council candidates trade jabs, answer questions at forum

Published: Nov. 12, 2015 at 4:39 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 22, 2015 at 4:47 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Four men made some of their final pitches Wednesday night, with the City of Columbia's run-off election less than a week away.

Last week, no candidate got the number of votes required to win the at-large council seat and the seat for City Council District 2. In a forum at the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the four laid out their plans and even took jabs at each other.

"Voters need to vote for the home-grown leader -- a leader from Columbia," said Aaron Bishop, who's running for the open City Council District 2 seat.

"There needs to be a real, legitimate understanding of what our infrastructure needs are," said Bishop's opponent, Ed McDowell.

In the forum at the Chamber of Commerce, candidates McDowell and Bishop laid out their plans to lead District 2. Bishop said he has experience leading the Richland One school board and looks to lead in the place he calls home. McDowell touted his leadership experience in the religious sector.

In the forum, McDowell defended his relationship with former councilman E.W. Cromartie.

"It's not a problem in my mind, because I'm my own man. E.W. Cromartie is a supporter," he said.

Bishop said despite Mayor Steve Benjamin's endorsement, he'll be his own man on council.

"I would not be a vote for the mayor. I think that the acknowledgment of my leadership by the mayor has also been acknowledged by other leaders and elected officials," Bishop said.

The candidates for the at-large seat separated themselves, too. Howard Duvall said he has experience in government and is much more seasoned than the younger Andy Smith.

"I have the experience to help the City of Columbia from day one. I have over 40 years of experience solving municipal problems," said Duvall.

Smith said his experience at the Nickelodeon Theatre has taught him how to lead and says he's the only candidate with a vision for the future.

"I think we need leaders who have big ideas who are really going to shape the future that we need to attract and retain the workforce of the 21st Century," he said.

Smith, who also scored the mayor's endorsement, dodged attacks that he'd be the mayor's yes-man.

"I don't agree with everything he's done," Smith told the large crowd. "I think the public-financing of sports stadiums is bad public policy."

Meanwhile, Duvall argued he wouldn't be the mayor's no-man. 

"I want to work with Mayor Benjamin. Mayor Benjamin is a friend of mine. I think he's done a lot of good," Duvall said.
The two run-off elections are next Tuesday.

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