CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg called into question claims he attributed to his opponent, City Council member Mike Seekings, the day after an election placed the two men in a runoff.
Tecklenburg held a news conference Wednesday afternoon during which he disputed remarks Seekings reportedly made about Tecklenburg’s record.
Citing quotes from Seekings that Tecklenburg said he read Wednesday morning, the mayor disputed Seekings’ claims about the I-526 project as well as a moratorium on hotels.
Tecklenburg said he read a quote in which Seekings claimed to be “the only candidate in this race who has ever voted to support 526.”
Tecklenburg said he personally went to Columbia on numerous occasions in support of completing the interstate.
“And in fact, it was at a time when the chips were down for this project, and the [State Infrastructure Bank] Board had cut funding off for the completion of 526,” Tecklenburg said. “I helped to keep the project alive.”
Tecklenburg said he went back to notes from a Charleston City Council meeting from April 26, 2016, during which council issued a resolution supporting the completion of I-526. Tecklenburg said he hoped for a unanimous vote in support of the resolution, but said two council members voted against it. Seekings, he said, was one of them.
“I bring this to your attention, because, unfortunately, this shows a pattern of the Seekings campaign, of being loose with the facts,” Tecklenburg said. “And in fact, flip flopping on issues to be politically expedient.”
Tecklenburg said he proposed a moratorium to put a lid on over-development, particularly, he said, on hotel over-development.
“Mike Seeking said, in one word, the moratorium was unnecessary,” Tecklenburg said. “In fact, he voted four times to defer, or and/or kill various hotel restrictions that I brought for council over the last four years. And now, this year, finally, coincidentally, being an election year, Council member Seekings supported very similar proposals that passed here in 2019 and finally getting it done, showing another major flip-flop.”
Tecklenburg then issued a challenge to Seekings to “run an honest campaign for these remaining 13 days” and to “stop these dark money, negative and untruthful ads that he and/or his associates have been running.”
Tecklenburg suggested there were numerous mailers sent out and radio ads purchased, “to the tune of at least $100,000, probably a great deal more,” that have been untruthful.
Mike Seekings issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon to the mayor’s news conference:
Charleston needs a plan and real action to fix our everyday challenges of flooding, traffic and over-development. That’s why I’m running for mayor.
I have long supported completing 526 the right way, and my voting record on that, like all issues, speaks for itself.
When the Mayor had his one chance to fight for real funding for 526 at the State Infrastructure Bank, he proposed holding a bake sale.
It’s time to get serious about traffic, over-development and flooding. In order to do that, we need a leader with serious proposals and funding strategies. That is why a majority of Charlestonians voted for a new direction in leadership yesterday, and that is what our campaign is about.
One thing we agree on is that there should be an open conversation about the issues. With that in mind, we call for a public, televised debate broadcast throughout Charleston sometime in the next seven days.
Seekings said the resolution he voted against regarding I-526 was about funding the project, not completing the interstate.
“At that point in 2016, when we had issues in the city with the infrastructure and flooding, we had to have a comprehensive plan for flooding, and that’s why I voted the way I did on the resolution,” he said. “We don’t need bake sales for funding we need to comprehensively look around and get monies in the right place at the right time so my one vote on that for 526 is on the record like all my others.”
Seekings denied that his campaign has had anything to do with mailings Tecklenburg alleged were funded by dark money.
“We have run a campaign that is positively funded by our supporters and by me, matching all along and we are going to continue with that," he said. "The other influences in this election have nothing to do with us, and we want to run a positive campaign on the issues which we have done, and will continue to do throughout this entire process when loser draw it’s about the issues, and that’s what we’re here to talk about.”
He said his campaign will stay energized and will talk about the message of leadership.
“One of the things that we learned yesterday, if nothing else, is that over 52 percent of the people who voted yesterday are looking for new direction so we’re going to talk about that,” he said. “And we’ll then let the voters decide on Nov. 19.”
He said he would love to get on Live 5 and have a live debate with Tecklenburg.
Tecklenburg and Seekings are required to face each other in a runoff because to win the Charleston mayor’s race, a candidate must receive at least 50% of the popular vote plus one additional vote. Since neither candidate reached that number of votes, a runoff is required.