The State held a live, virtual forum for Columbia’s four candidates running for mayor on Wednesday.
The State’s opinion editor, Trudi Gilfillian, moderated the forum. Candidates Daniel Rickenmann, Tameika Isaac Devine, Sam Johnson and Moe Baddourah answered questions from The State employees and citizens of Columbia and Richland School District 1.
The candidates answered questions about their approach toward Columbia’s infrastructure, improving safety, improving the economy and how they plan to reduce crime in the city.
Daniel Rickenmann, a District 4 city councilman, has served in his position for two years. He was first elected into the city council in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008.
Rickenmann said he decided to run for mayor because Columbia has only seen 2% growth over the last decade.
“We haven't embraced outside investment. We haven’t sold our city. We haven’t done the things we can to take the hurdles out so that the working families have opportunities to succeed,” Rickenmann said. “I have seen it from both sides, both from the business side and from the government side. So, I know what the solutions are. We have to invest internally. We have to have a safer, smarter and stronger city.”
Tamieka Isaac Devine, an at-large city councilwoman, has served in her position since 2002. She was the first African-American woman to serve on City Council and the first African-American to win an at-large election in Columbia.
She was endorsed in Columbia’s mayoral race by U.S. Representative Jim Clyburn on Oct. 4.
Devine said she believes while a lot of progress has been made in Columbia in the past 19 years, there’s still “so much more than needs to be done.”
“I’m running for mayor to be an independent voice, someone who champions all communities and who is promoting inclusive and equitable growth throughout the city. So, no matter where you live, whether it is Shandon or Rosewood, North Columbia or Woodcreek Farms, you know that you have a champion in the mayor’s office,” Devine said.
Sam Johnson is a former aide to Mayor Steve Benjamin and currently an advisor on staff at Nexsen Pruet. On Sept. 8, Benjamin endorsed Johnson for mayor of Columbia.
Johnson criticized fellow candidates Devine, Baddourah and Rickenmann for their actions on City Council. He said he’s running for mayor to stop “the same old ad slogans and broken promises.”
“We need new ideas, new energy, real solutions and real leadership,” Johnson said.
Moe Baddourah served as a former District 3 councilman for two terms but was suspended for a year and a half due to a domestic violence assault claim. Baddourah also ran for mayor in 2013.
Baddourah said he aims to provide clean water to Columbia, invest in small businesses, and develop the Riverfront as a place for new small businesses to grow and “achieve their American Dreams.”
“As we go through this forum, you’ll see I am the only candidate with direct answers and solutions to a lot of the problems that we have in the city, and for that, I think I am the best candidate for the job,” Baddourah said.
Columbia’s general election is Tuesday, Nov. 2.