Tyler Bailey speaks with a victory party attendee. (Photo by Caroline Evans/Carolina News and Reporter)

Tyler Bailey won the city of Columbia’s open at-large seat after securing almost 54% of the votes in a hotly contested, three-way race.

Three candidates stepped up, hoping to fill the shoes of longtime councilman Howard Duvall, who decided not to run for re-election.

Bailey, an attorney who owns the Bailey Law Firm, previously ran for an at-large council seat in 2021 but was unsuccessful.

Candidate Jesse Bullard, vice president and partner at Southern Way Catering, came in second. Bullard is a board member of the Friends of Epworth Children’s Home and a member of the Columbia Rotary Club.

Christa Williams, who came in third, owns Uncle Willie’s, a grocery store in North Columbia. She is a member of the South Carolina Army National Guard.

Turnout was moderate in a year that featured only municipal races.

By 3:14 p.m., 42 people had voted at the Harbinson 1 and Harbinson 2 merged precinct. At the Ward 22/Ridgewood merged precinct, 88 people had voted by 4:10 p.m. And 319 people had voted at the Greenview/Fairwold precinct by 4:53 p.m.

Bailey stood outside of the Greenview/Fairwold precinct just before 5 p.m., shaking hands and greeting voters.

“It’s OK, you always want (turnout) to be high,” Bailey said. “Ultimately, we’ll see what they say at the end of the night.”

At the Ward 25/24 merged precinct, 632 people had voted by 5:33 p.m. And Ward 33 saw 104 people by 6:06 p.m.

“This is the grassroots,” said frequent voter Kristine Thompson in Harbison. “Whether it’s school board, county, city council, whatever. It’s the grassroots of what leads to our national government.”

Voters throughout the day voiced their opinions on candidates and what the council needs.

“I believe we need a little bit of diversity, not just racial, but as far as age is concerned,” said Ben Barber, who voted for Tyler Bailey at the Greenview/Fairwold merged precinct. 

Bailey, 34, will serve on a council where the average age long has been considerably higher.

“So I think he’s somebody that might be able to do a little change in there,” Barber said. “So why not give the youngsters a shot? The ones who have the great education, the ones who’ve done the work – and give them a chance at their council.”

Barri Thompson, who voted for Bullard at the Ward 25/24 merged precinct, said she did it to keep things consistent in Columbia.

“I voted for Jesse Bullard mostly because I voted for (Mayor Daniel) Rickenmann (two years ago), and I want to stay on that trail,” Thompson said.

Jared Johnson, a business owner who voted for Bailey, did so for the opposite reasons.

“Jesse’s a nice guy,” Johnson said, “But what he wants to bring to the council, his viewpoints, his platform, isn’t too much different from Daniel Rickenmann. Isn’t too much different from what (others bring to) council.”

Tyler Bailey addresses the crowd at his victory party. (Photo by Caroline Evans/Carolina News and Reporter)

Voting signs outside of merged Wards 24 and 25 (Photo by Caroline Evans/Carolina News and Reporter)