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Steve Benjamin, a Columbia attorney, was elected the South Carolina capital’s first black mayor this week.

Benjamin, 40, defeated a city council candidate whose campaign was built around the warning that Columbia’s budget is in crisis and a promise to shrink local government.

Benjamin, in contrast, promised to restore funding cut to the police department. He won with nearly 56 percent of the vote.

More than 19,000 people – some 31 percent for the city’s registered voters – cast ballots Tuesday.

“The people of Columbia spoke, and together we made history,” Benjamin was quoted as saying in the Charlotte Observer. “We made history today, not because of race. We made history because people responded to a message of unity, hope and promise. We are one city. One Columbia.”

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