Beaufort County, two others buck statewide trend with nod to Romney

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.com/achristnovich@islandpacket.comJanuary 21, 2012 

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain share a laugh as Gov. Nikki Haley speaks during Romney's campaign appearance on Hilton Head Island.

JAY KARR, THE ISLAND PACKET

  • Get breaking news and story updates about crime, courts and emergency services in northern Beaufort County by following Protect and Serve on Twitter.

Despite winning the state and several neighboring counties, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich did not carry Beaufort County in Saturday's Republican primary.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won about 43 percent of Beaufort County's votes, according to the Beaufort County Board of Elections and Voter Registration.

Gingrich received about 35 percent.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum finished third with 13 percent.

Ron Paul had 7 percent.

Beaufort, Richland and Charleston counties were the only ones Gingrich did not win Saturday, according to the S.C. Election Commission.

Gingrich won by sizable margins in nearby Jasper, Hampton and Colleton counties, according to the Associated Press.

Several Beaufort County voters who cast their ballots for Gingrich said they did so because of his performance in several televised debates and his harsh criticism of President Barack Obama.

Brenda Flowers of Bluffton said she voted for Gingrich because of his promise to "sign 27 executive orders" that would undo some of the Obama administration's more controversial policies.

Other local voters also cited Obama's performance as one of the main reasons they voted in the GOP primary Saturday.

"You may not be as happy with the candidates that are running, but we have to do something about who's in there now," said Flora Showalter of Hilton Head Island.

About 26 percent of the county's 102,000 registered voters cast ballots Saturday, a slight increase from the 24 percent turnout in the state's 2008 GOP primary, said Scott Marshall, the executive director of the county's board of elections.

Beaufort County's numbers weren't released until around 10:30 p.m. because county officials were awaiting the results from a single precinct on Hilton Head. Those results had to be driven to Beaufort and delayed the release of the unofficial numbers.

Board members will meet next week to certify the primary results.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.

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