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Remaining Charleston mayoral candidates battle over definition of 'developer'

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Businessman John Tecklenburg and state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis are headed for a runoff to decide who will be Charleston's next mayor after finishing in a virtual tie in Tuesday night's general election.

Stavrinakis spoke triumphantly at his election night party. Despite coming in a close second to surprise leader Tecklenburg, Stavrinakis' strong second place showing was enough to propel him to a runoff election in two weeks.

In front of hundreds of supporters at the Town and Country Inn and Suites, he said of Tecklenburg: "We cannot turn Charleston over to a mayor who's a developer!"

That was the statement that started a war of words.

In an interview airing live on ABC News 4 at 11, Stavrinakis explained his calling out Tecklenburg.

"He works for one of the biggest development companies in Charleston so it speaks for itself," Stavrinakis said.

"To say I'm a developer is just untrue. I was really surprised to hear Leon say that," Tecklenburg said Wednesday.

Tecklenburg said he does work in real estate, but as a commercial real estate agent.

His employer Clement, Crawford and Thornhill, released a statement Wednesday saying it does have a development division, but Tecklenburg doesn't work in it.

"Clement, Crawford and Thornhill, Inc., known as CC&T Real Estate Services, is a full service Real Estate firm in Charleston, South Carolina with separate divisions of Brokerage, Property Management and Development. John Tecklenburg is a licensed real estate agent within the Brokerage Division and a member of the Association of Realtors. As such he is an independent contractor who facilitates real estate transactions. John does not work in CC&T's Development Division nor does he have any ownership interest in CC&T or any of its related developments," the statement reads.

Tecklenburg explained his role at the firm.

"I mostly help business clients when they're looking for warehouse space or starting a new business in Charleston and need to rent office space," Tecklenburg said.

Stavrinakis's campaign stood by the accusation Wednesday. Stavrinakis released a statement, saying in part, "While John is a good guy, it would make little sense to hand the keys of City Hall over to someone who has been profiting from all this growth."

Representatives for the candidate also pointed to Tecklenburg's biography on the CC&T website, where he's described as someone with "significant experience assembling tracts of land and negotiating complex deals for clients."

Tecklenburg said his understanding of real estate would help him as mayor.

"You have to be able, at the right place and right time, to work with developers to make good things happen in our community," he said.

Tecklenburg called the accusation "politics as usual." He said he wanted to focus on a positive campaign for the next two weeks.

During a press conference from Washington Square Wednesday afternoon, Tecklenburg proposed a one-year freeze on hotel construction approvals in the City of Charleston and the creation of a citizens service desk that would have representatives from West Ashley and Johns, James, and Daniel islands.

Meanwhile, Stavrinakis called himself the clear choice for people concerned about growth and development.

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