For the first time in Columbia’s history, Columbia voters Tuesday elected the same person to Columbia’s top position for a fourth consecutive term.
Darwin Hindman defeated newcomers John Clark and Arch Brooks to win another three-year term. Of the 11,376 votes cast in the race, Hindman garnered 8,052, good for more than 70 percent of the total. Clark finished second with 2,946, or nearly 26 percent, while Brooks received 378, or just more than 3 percent.
Hindman was first elected mayor in 1995, when he collected more than half the votes cast despite competition from five other candidates. Hindman was unopposed for re-election in 1998 and 2001.
The mayor celebrated his victory at The Pasta Factory with a group of nearly 100 supporters. At the reception, he acknowledged the difficulty of his opposition and voiced his relief that the election is over.
“I’m extremely proud of that outcome,” Hindman said as a crowd of cheering supporters looked on. “It’s been a hard campaign.”
Hindman also spoke highly of the tone of his campaign, attributing his victory in part to his positive approach.
“There was no negative attack on either opponent,” Hindman said. “I think we took the high road in this campaign.”
Hindman won in each of Columbia’s six wards and by landslide margins in the Fourth and Fifth wards. He won all but three precincts. Clark carried Precincts 1A and 1H in the First Ward; he and Hindman tied with two votes apiece in Precinct 6F.
Clark ran a close race with Hindman in all but one of the precincts in the First Ward, where he lives. By contrast, Hindman collected nearly as many votes in the Fourth Ward alone as Clark did overall.
Clark worked hard to challenge Hindman, raising several issues that garnered community and media attention. He called for beginning the process for selecting a new city manager to succeed Ray Beck when he retires and for appointing a commission to study whether the city should have more wards and, thus, more council representatives.
Despite the defeat, Clark was upbeat during a reception at his Ninth Street home. He thinks the ideas expressed in his platform will stay in the minds of Columbians over the next three years.
“I think people will judge Hindman by how he addresses those issues,” Clark said. “I think 25 percent of the vote, given the incumbency, doesn’t overshadow the fact that those issues shaped the election.”
Hindman said many of the issues Clark raised, such as the addition of more wards, did not shock him.
“In reality, there wasn’t a lot brought up in this campaign that was new,” Hindman said. “On some of those things, (Clark) and I aren’t too far off from each other.”
Brooks, who for much of the campaign declined to talk with the media, was once again unavailable for comment last night. He based much of his bid on a Web site that outlined his platform and credentials.
In his victory speech, Hindman congratulated both his opponents for their efforts. He spoke most extensively about Clark’s campaign.
“I do want to congratulate John Clark on running a vigorous campaign,” Hindman said. “He presented his issues very well.”
Clark, long a neighborhood and civic activist in Columbia, did not rule out future campaigns for public office, including a potential bid for councilman or another run at the mayor’s job.
“I haven’t felt that itch yet, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been bit,” Clark said. “If we haven’t made progress on the nine points in my final platform, I might.”
Hindman routinely said during his campaign that he was running on his record and previous experience. Asked what major challenges and projects await him during his next term, Hindman said he has some ideas but wants to present them when the timing is right. In his speech, Hindman said maintaining a high quality of life is crucial as Columbia grows.
Hindman said that when he was first elected in 1995, he never expected he would one day be elected to a fourth term. He said he’s happy to continue serving Columbia.
“It makes me extremely proud,” he said.