COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ Voters in Columbia picked a black mayor Tuesday for the first time in the history of South Carolina's capital city.
Lawyer and lobbyist Steve Benjamin received 10,784 votes (56 percent) in a runoff, beating City Councilman Kirkman Finlay III, who got 8,558 votes (44 percent) with just a few precincts remaining, according to the Richland County Election Commission's website.
Benjamin will replace Mayor Bob Coble, who decided to step down last year after two decades in office.
Benjamin won the initial election two weeks ago by about 1,000 votes, but fell well short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff.
It's the first major political win for Benjamin, a 40-year-old father of 5- and 2-year-old girls who is considered a rising star in Democratic politics in South Carolina.
He spent three years running the South Carolina Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole, leaving the agency for an unsuccessful run for attorney general in 2002.
Benjamin defeated a familiar name in Columbia politics. Finlay is the son of former Columbia Mayor Kirkman Finlay Jr., who served from 1978 to 1986.
The younger Finlay took over his family's real estate holdings and finances at age 23 when his father died. The 40-year-old father of 9-, 7- and 6-year-old daughters runs two restaurants in Columbia.
Finlay's chief issue since arriving on city council in 2006 was getting control of Columbia's budget woes. Benjamin also promised to get the city's budget in check.
Benjamin will take over in July from Coble, a 56-year-old father of six who plans to spend more time with his family and concentrate on his law practice.
A Columbia resident since age 4, Coble has been popular since taking office, handily defeating all challengers. He said he enjoyed being known simply as “Mayor Bob'' _ a name that stuck from a radio station interview.
Pictured above is Steve Benjamin.