Republican candidate Daniel Rickenmann has stormed to an unexpected victory in the Columbia, South Carolina, mayoral race.
The surprise win comes despite his Democrat opponent boasting an endorsement from Barack Obama and running in a solidly blue area.
Biden won the county by nearly 40% in 2020 but this did not translate into a victory for Democrat Tameika Isaac Devine, who was hoping to be the next in a long line of mayors from her party to lead the city.
Local Republican beats national Democrats
Daniel Rickenmann, a local businessman and Columbia city council member, had an uphill battle from the beginning in his race to become the next mayor of Columbia.
Barack Obama, who recorded an endorsement for Devine shortly before the election, won by huge margins in the city both times he ran for president.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, who played a key role in delivering South Carolina for the Biden campaign and reviving it when Biden was struggling against Bernie Sanders, also endorsed Devine.
Republicans have not even been trying to run candidates in the Columbia mayoral race in recent years; the Democrats have not been defeated there in decades.
Both sides apparently felt that Rickenmann was gaining momentum in the weeks before the election. The South Carolina GOP rushed to aid Rickenmann and Democrats enlisted Obama and Clyburn to support Devine.
Ultimately those big name endorsements did nothing for Devine, who lost the race by four points in an area which Biden had carried by nearly 10 times that percentage difference.
Democrats lose race for first time in decades
Rickenmann has not been an intensely partisan presence in Columbia during his time as a city council member, a fact which some say should dampen wider Republican enthusiasm for his victory.
He has, however, been a leading Republican voice in city politics and he very much ran for mayor as a Republican candidate, rather than attempting to downplay his party affiliation.
He is a white businessman in a city which is nearly half black and has elected lawyers for decades. Rickenmann by default is a massive shift in the recent political history of the South Carolina capital.
Even with an endorsement from Barack Obama, the area’s safe Democrat majority could not be inspired to vote for Tameika Isaac Devine.
This is another worrying sign for Democrats already dreading the 2022 midterm elections. Regardless of Rickenmann personally, a victory for any Republican in such a solidly blue area should be worrying for Democrats.
The mayor-elect will take office in January and has plans to reform taxes in the city, a project which he has been a vocal advocate for during his time on the city council.