Local businessman Rick Osbon is Aiken’s new mayor.
Osbon, a Republican and a small-business owner, defeated Democratic challenger, and 28-year City Council member, Lessie Price by a 65 percent to 35 percent count. Osbon tallied 4,899 votes to Price’s 2,665 votes.
Also, City Council members Dick Dewar and Gail Diggs retained their seats on Council as both ran unopposed. Price also will keep her seat on Council.
More than 30 percent of Aiken’s 23,215 registered voters braved the drizzle and fog to cast their ballots to elect Aiken’s first new mayor in 24 years, and just the third mayor in the past 64 years.
Outgoing Mayor Fred Cavanaugh opted not to seek a seventh term in the spring, setting up the battle between the veteran Council member and the small-business owner.
“This has been a long campaign, and I’m so glad it’s finally over,” Osbon said, “We ran a good campaign, and everywhere we went the voters seemed in tune with the message. I felt good about the race and my chances, but I did not expect such a large margin of victory.”
Osbon said one of his first orders of business is to deal with the 1 percent hospitality tax.
“I think the results speak for itself when it comes to the hospitality tax,” the mayor-elect said.
Price pulled out to an early lead when the 1,087 electronic absentee ballot results were posted, but Osbon quickly recovered as results began pouring in.
The campaign has been an intense four months, Price said, shortly after voting at the Pinecrest School precinct site early Tuesday.
“I wish my opponent and his family well,” the Democratic candidate said Tuesday morning. “Whatever the outcome is, we’ll have to accept what God has in store for us, whoever becomes the next mayor. Personally, I’m looking forward to leadership in this community – bringing folks together.”
During her campaign, Price said, she has focused on providing structure and welcoming young professionals and public-private partnerships. She also emphasized the need to consider the kinds of things that can bring people to the Aiken community.
Osbon and Price differed on how to lure Aiken’s young professionals to the downtown area. Price said the city should provide the housing and the professionals will come. Osbon differed, saying to provide the jobs and attract the young professionals and the housing would take care of itself.
Results are unofficial as of press time and will be certified Thursday.
Dan Brown is the government beat reporter for the Aiken Standard.