Even without opposition, Davis, Keyserling campaigning hard

cconley@ilsandpacket.comNovember 2, 2012 

  • Many on Beaufort County ballots will run unopposed in Tuesday's general election. Among them are:

    Bill Herbkersman S.C. House 118 Republican

    Weston Newton S.C. House 120 Republican

    Kenneth Hodges S.C. House 121 Democrat

    Andy Patrick S.C. House 123 Republican

    Shannon Erickson S.C. House 124 Republican

    Duffie Stone 14th Circuit Solicitor Republican

    Ed Allen Coroner Republican

    Jerri Roseneau Clerk of Court Republican

    Gerald Dawson County Council District 1 Democrat

    William McBride County Council District 3 Democrat

    Brian Flewelling County Council District 5 Republican

Two of Beaufort's highest-profile politicians are running unopposed this fall, but that doesn't mean they're sitting out the election.

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, has traveled across the state supporting candidates who share his goals of making "South Carolina the freest state in the nation." He's also worked the phones to help the GOP ticket, calling voters in North Carolina and urging them to vote Republican.

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling has been running newspaper advertisements, sending mailers and installing campaign signs -- even though he's the only person running.

Instead of votes, he's trying to collect email addresses and page views.

"My whole campaign is focused on driving people to my website and the newsletter list," Keyserling said.


Davis, who is seeking a second, four-year term in Columbia, has visited nearly 30 South Carolina cities and towns during the past few months, rallying support and raising money for like-minded state Senate candidates.

He also spoke at a Ron Paul rally preceding the Republican National Convention, making waves by calling for the defeat of U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, a fellow Republican, in 2014. Paul helped Davis raise money in Columbia earlier this year.

Davis, who has $3,500 cash on hand, according to his latest S.C. Ethics Commission filing, is stumping for candidates in places such as York County and Myrtle Beach to help Republicans pad their state senate majority.

But all that campaigning outside Beaufort County has stoked ongoing speculation that Davis is preparing for a statewide run in 2014 -- either against Graham or Gov. Nikki Haley. Both are Republicans.

Davis understands why people might draw that conclusion but maintains his focus is "completely on representing the citizens of Beaufort County."

"I understand people are making suppositions and trying to connect the dots," he said this week. "But I am focused on implementing the reforms that are important to South Carolina"

Those reforms include eliminating the state's debt load, cutting taxes and finding ways to reward entrepreneurs and attract new investment and jobs.

"At the end of the day, I am not going to make a career up in the Senate," he said. "I am not going to be there more than three terms, because if I can't get something done in 12 years, I don't need be up there."


Although he's the lone mayoral candidate, Keyserling has amassed a small fortune in campaign contributions. His filing with the S.C. Ethics Commission shows "Mayor Billy" raised more than $26,000 preparing for a challenge that never materialized.

"I've got my Billy buttons up, I've raised money, I've been spending it, and I'm basically trying to learn how be a better mayor," said Keyserling, who is seeking a second, four-year term.

Rather than save for the next election, Keyserling has spent about half of his fund on activities typically reserved for contested elections. He sent a campaign mailer to thousands of Beaufort-area households and completed a candidate questionnaire prepared by The Beaufort Gazette -- even though the forms were only sent to candidates in contested races. He's also placed about a dozen campaign signs around town and bought ads in local media.

The purpose, Keyserling said, is to draw more people to his website and newsletter, which alert residents to pending city business, events and other happenings.

"I believe that communication leads to transparency, and I think if you were to survey people in Beaufort, most would say I am the most communicative mayor they have ever seen."

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.

Related content:

Davis comments about Bernanke, Graham create stir, Aug. 30, 2012

Billy Keyserling's website

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