8 candidates to vie for 2 Bluffton Town Council seats

dburley@islandpacket.comSeptember 6, 2013 

Expect a runoff.

Eight candidates filed to run for two open seats on the Bluffton Town Council by Friday's deadline, and with one of the most crowded fields in years, the outcome isn't likely to be settled in the Nov. 5 election.

Because seats on the non-partisan council are determined at-large, voters can select two candidates on their ballots. To earn a seat, a candidate must appear on a majority of ballots. If two candidates fail to earn a majority, the field will be pared to the top vote-getters for a Nov. 19 runoff, according to Marie Smalls, the interim executive director of the Beaufort County Board of Elections and Registration.

"When you get this many candidates running, nine out of 10 times you'll have a run-off," Smalls said.

Since 2005, there has been an average of three or four candidates in the biannual election, according to data provided by the town clerk.

The list of candidates includes many faces familiar to Bluffton town government. Only two have never run for council, according to town spokeswoman Debbie Szpanka.

Candidates include Councilman Charlie Wetmore, who entered the race Friday.

Incumbents Michael Raymond and Mayor Pro Tem Oliver Brown both are seeking re-election.

Other candidates include Gary Bensch, husband of Beaufort County Councilwoman Cynthia Bensch; Garfield Moss, who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2008; businessman Bill Roe; former Councilman Fred Hamilton; and Larry Toomer, who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2005.

Anyone planning to vote in the election must be registered no later than Oct. 5.

Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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