First Republican Mayor Elected in Charleston, SC - First Since 1877

 November 22, 2023

In an unprecedented political shift, Charleston, South Carolina, has elected its first Republican mayor in over a century.

William Cogswell, a Republican and former South Carolina state representative, has triumphed over incumbent Democrat Mayor John Tecklenburg in a surprising electoral victory.

William Cogswell, also a seasoned real estate developer, secured this historic win with a slender majority. His 51.04% of the votes (13,930 votes) edged out Tecklenburg's 48.95% (13,361 votes). The last time a Republican held the mayoral seat in Charleston was in 1877, highlighting the noteworthy nature of this election outcome.

Tecklenburg's Tenure Concludes

John Tecklenburg, the defeated incumbent, had been serving as Charleston's mayor since 2016. Over the past several years, his leadership has seen the city through both triumphs and trials.

The first signs of Tecklenburg's potential defeat appeared earlier this month in the open primary race. Cogswell led the pack on November 7th, suggesting that Tecklenburg's position was threatened.

Nevertheless, the final results have been described as a "stunning" victory for Cogswell, reflecting the unexpectedness of this political upset in a traditionally Democratic city.

Campaign Issues at Play

Several key issues dominated the mayoral race, with coastal flooding being a point of significant concern. As Charleston grappled with the impacts of climate change, both candidates recognized the need for effective solutions to this pressing problem.

Yet, it was Cogswell's focus on public safety that may have made the difference. He frequently referenced the 2020 riots on King Street, which followed the death of George Floyd and impacted approximately 150 businesses. This emphasis suggested a commitment to restoring order and stability, a message that likely resonated with many voters.

His campaign also highlighted his experience as a real estate developer, an expertise that could be instrumental in managing the city's growth and addressing housing issues.

Reactions to the Election Results

William Cogswell conveyed his enthusiasm for the journey ahead and his deep appreciation for the support he received from the citizens of Charleston.  Despite his loss, Tecklenburg displayed a gracious demeanor, saying he was "optimistic for the future" of Charleston.

Drew McKissick, Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, lauded Cogswell's victory as a part of a broader trend for the GOP in the state.

"Last night, Republicans made history in the City of Charleston by electing the first Republican mayor since 1877. This win is representative of the shifting momentum we’re seeing all across the state, as there are now GOP mayors in three of the largest cities in South Carolina: Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville. This is what happens when Republicans work together as a team to promote our principles and win."

Looking to the Future

With this historic election, Charleston enters a new chapter in its political narrative. Cogswell's victory underscores the evolving political dynamics in the city and, perhaps, the state.

As Charleston's first Republican mayor in more than a century, Cogswell carries the expectations and hopes of a city ready for change. His leadership will undoubtedly shape the city's future in significant ways.

Only time will tell how this political shift will impact the city's policies and direction, but for now, Charleston has made a clear statement about its desire for change.


  • William Cogswell was the first Republican mayor of Charleston since 1877.
  • The former South Carolina state representative won with 51.04% of the votes.
  • His victory signals a significant change in the city's political landscape.
  • Public safety and coastal flooding were key issues in the campaign.
  • Cogswell's win is seen as part of a broader Republican trend in South Carolina.

About Aileen Barro

With years of experience at the forefront of political commentary, Robert Cunningham brings a blend of sharp wit and deep insight to his analysis of American principles at the Capitalism Institute.

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