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At Large: Anderson Attacks, Mercer Cries Foul

By Dennis Mitchell
Election Correspondent

The race for the lone city council seat representing all of Greenville pits incumbent Calvin Mercer against newcomer Erik Anderson.





Mercer has the distinction of serving on city council for four consecutive terms, three as the representative from District 4, and now as the At-Large representative. This is Anderson’s first entry in a city election, however he earlier ran for U.S. House against Representative Walter Jones.

Anderson has been in attack mode, challenging Mercer’s record on everything from council pay to taxes, and charging that Mercer really wanted to run for Mayor.

Via email, Anderson said why he believes voters should choose him over Mercer: “Calvin, as the At-Large council member, should represent the entire city, not a small segment and his voting bloc. He also serves as Mayor pro-tem and should be leader of the council, not someone that sits passively at council meetings, not speaking for the people of the city.”

(We link to both candidates’ full email replies to a series of questions at the end of this story. Note that, for clarity, we’ve “cleaned-up” grammatical, punctuation and usage errors in the replies quoted within this piece, but have left the originals untouched in the linked documents – Ed.)

Anderson also charges that Mercer has supported an agenda focused on increasing term limits and councilors’ pay, and on raising city taxes and fees.

Mercer has rebutted some of these claims through his newsletters, and in candidate debates. In a recent newsletter entitled “Smashing the Myth,” Mercer wrote that Anderson’s claim that he has voted to raise councilors’ pay is “NOT TRUE.” Mercer accurately pointed to a vote by the previous council (2011-13) to increase councilors’ pay as part of passing the budget, which he voted against.

Much attention in this contest has been focused on Anderson’s attack of Mercer’s record regarding tax increases.

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Anderson has charged that Mercer voted to raise taxes and fees more than 12 times. Mercer again responded in his newsletter, saying this is another untruthful claim, and pointing to an op-ed in the Greenville Guardian by councilor Rick Smiley, written in response to the same claim, leveled by Smiley’s opponent, in their D4 race.

“Since I’ve been on this council,” Mercer told the Guardian via email, “I’ve voted to decrease the tax rate 5 cents and to increase it 2 cents. I’ll stand on that record.”

In casting ballots for the At-Large seat, voters will have to choose which candidate they believe.

As for the mechanics of the campaign, Anderson has had to surmount a huge fundraising disadvantage. To do so, he has used candidate debates and forums to try to draw distinctions between Mercer and himself. Mercer, meanwhile, has stood firmly on his record, pointing to successful projects during his tenure as reasons he should be re-elected.

This race will likely boil down to whether the citizens of Greenville want more of Mercer, or feel that it is time for a change.

Dennis Mitchell held the at-large seat on city council from 2011-13. He is the Guardian’s special election correspondent.

Full At-Large Debate (mid September):

Candidate e-mail Q&A replies (late October):

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