Y’all remember several months ago when I interviewed Tige Watts, who was running against Cameron Runyan in this year’s election for at-large Columbia City Council member?
Well, if you’ll recall, a couple of months later Tige dropped out, to be replaced by his political ally Howard Duvall, whom most folks know as the longtime director of the South Carolina municipal association, now retired.
Well, here’s how all that happened, according to Howard, whom I interviewed this morning:
Howard and Tige are both involved with a group that concerns itself with good local government as they see it, along with Kit Smith, Candy Waites, Ginny Grose and several others.
Back last November, they decided to do a poll to examine the feasibility of one of them challenging Cameron Runyan for his at-large seat on City Council. This was close to the time when the incumbent was taking his lonesome stance against benefits for same-sex partners of city employees. And sure, there was a good bit of bitterness out there on account of his having been elected with gay community help, before his big conversion experience.
But Howard says that was not the impetus. The members of his Good Government Group were united in opposing him because he supported the deal for the baseball park at the Bull Street development. The Triple-G had thought he was on their side after they had presented him with facts and figures that they thought made an overwhelming case against the deal, and when he voted the other way, giving the proposal a 4-3 victory, they decided they had had enough of Cameron Runyan.
They did ask a question on their poll as to whether voters could support an openly gay candidate, and 70 percent responded affirmatively. That and the rest of the poll persuaded Tige Watts, a political consultant, that he should be the one to run. The rest of the group agreed, and he started talking up his candidacy.
But as time passed, others in the group began to have their doubts. They were worried that Tige wasn’t raising enough money, and that he was having trouble balancing his work with the time that such a candidacy demanded. Other members of the group got together and decided that Mr. Duvall, who is retired, would be able to commit the kind of time and effort that success would demand.
So he approached Mr. Watts, who initially responded by proposing that both run, and promise each other that if either got into a runoff, the other would endorse him. That was on a Monday. By Friday, he had thought better of that, and said he would drop out and endorse Howard.
Since then, the Duvall campaign has been fairly active, with the candidate spending several hours a day on the phone either raising money (he’s shooting for $100,000) or seeking other forms of support. And yet the campaign hasn’t been officially launched. That is set to happen on September 9. Tonight, one of the Republican members of Duvall’s backer group is hosting him at a reception at which about 100 Republicans — not the usual allies for him, or for Kit or Candy — are expected.
With Duvall, you have a great believer in professionalism in local government, and someone who could reasonably claim to be as well qualified as anyone you can imagine. He was a several-term councilman and then mayor of Cheraw, his hometown, before he become head of the Municipal Association in 1987. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration from USC.
In other words, he’s a pretty logical replacement for Tige Watts, who is a national leader in neighborhood associations.
I have a lot of respect for Howard, and for the folks in his group, even though they were the cabal behind defeating the strong-mayor initiative, with Howard being the guy who managed to get the vote separated from the mayoral election, which is what did the proposal in.
See, that’s what Howard means by professionalism in government — that it should be run by an unelected, professional manager instead of an elected mayor.
I’m not going to get into all the reasons he’s wrong about that at the moment. For now, I’ll just say that his long experience and dedication to municipal government in this state makes him a very strong candidate.
He’s running on a platform of improving public safety and updating infrastructure, by which he means water and sewer.
Meanwhile it appears that Runyan is still in it, based on an email I got today inviting me to this Rally.org page.
And I believe John Adams, son of ex-mayor Patton, is still in it as well — although I haven’t heard anything about it since March, which was back before Tige Watts dropped out.
I guess I’ll need to run him down next.
Meanwhile, dig Howard’s wild campaign poster and logo. He says it’s Ginny Grose’s design. The little triangle in the D is supposed to look like a fast-forward button, he says. Some GOP allies thought it looked too much like the arrow in Hillary Clinton’s logo, but they went with it anyway.
It looks to me like a title page for a cartoon — more like Howard the Duck (who, you will recall, ran for office on the ticket of the All-Night Party in 1976 — campaign slogan, “Get Down, America!”) than Howard the Duvall. But I’ve got to say, it’s distinctive.