Charleston, South Carolina, Elects First Republican Mayor Since 1870s

“The people have spoken, and we’re ready for a new direction," Mayor-elect William Cogswell said.

Charleston, South Carolina, elected its first Republican mayor since the 1870s this week.

The state’s Election Commission said William Cogswell, who served as a state representative for three terms, won a runoff election against incumbent Mayor John Tecklenburg by 2 percentage points, or 566 votes. The win will give the city its first Republican leader since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, a major shift for Charleston, which has largely bucked broader trends in the state.

Cogswell was in good standing before Tuesday’s election, having won the most votes in the state’s general election on Nov. 7. But he failed to win a majority at the time, mandating the runoff this week.

“We can confidently say that I’m going to be the next mayor,” Cogswell said after his victory on Tuesday. “The people have spoken, and we’re ready for a new direction ... a new direction that puts labels aside, so that we can find pragmatic solutions to our problems.”

Cogswell, who identifies as a moderate, told The New York Times he was proud to have “very conservative people who supported me and very liberal people,” adding that he hoped his role would see him get “things done for the people.”

He will take office in January.

The mayor of Charleston is officially a nonpartisan role, but those in the position are often identified with a party. The city’s last Republican mayor was George Cunningham, from 1873 until 1877. Democrats had firm control over the post until this week, including one mayor who served for 10 terms.

Tecklenburg urged residents to give his opponent their support in his concession speech this week, saying: “When Mayor Cogswell succeeds, Charleston succeeds, and that’s something we’re all in favor of.”

It’s the second time a Democratic stronghold has switched hands in South Carolina in recent years. The city of Columbia elected Republican Daniel Rickenmann as mayor in 2021.

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