3 Beaufort County Council members to face challengers in Republican primary

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comMarch 30, 2014 

Former Beaufort County school board member Jim Bequette will challenge Beaufort County Council Chairman Paul Sommerville in the June 10 Republican primary election.

Sommerville's seat is one of seven council positions up for re-election this year, among a host of other local, state and congressional seats. Party filing for those races closed at noon Sunday.

Bequette, a certified public accountant, says the council's attempts at economic development have led to recklessness with the county budget, which lacks transparency, he said.

The council is working to make its budget process clearer and more transparent by releasing more financial reports, according to Sommerville, who represents Lady's Island and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. He has served on the council since 2007 and became chairman in January 2013.

Republican council members Stu Rodman of Hilton Head Island and Jerry Stewart of Sun City will also face opponents in the June primary, while Democrat Laura Von Harten will face an Independence Party candidate in November.

Hilton Head Island attorney Lauren Martel will challenge Rodman and said she wants to cut county spending to avoid tax increases.

Technical College of the Lowcountry history professor Steven Bacon will challenge Stewart. A retired major in the U.S. Air Force, Bacon would like to see improved relations with area military installations.

Beaufort resident Brian MacDermant filed for Von Harten's seat Sunday. The 44-year-old made headlines in August 2009 when he was arrested by the State Law Enforcement Division for making threats to harm then-Gov. Mark Sanford.

MacDermant was charged with threatening the life of a public official, according to court records. MacDermant said Sunday the incident was behind him; he never spoke directly to Sanford and no recording of the alleged threats was ever produced, but he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense and paid a fine.

MacDermant said he chose to run because he didn't want to see Von Harten run unopposed, calling her one of several council members who residents wanted to see voted out of office.

Incumbents in the remaining three County Council seats up for re-election have each filed to run again and are unopposed. They are Republicans Steve Fobes and Rick Caporale of Hilton Head Island, and Republican Tabor Vaux of Bluffton.

OTHER RACES

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston, whose 1st Congressional District includes a portion of Beaufort County, will run unopposed. The former governor returned to Congress after winning a special election last summer.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, whose district includes a sliver of northern Beaufort County, will face fellow Democrat Karen Smith in the primary. Republican Leon Winn also filed for the seat.

Only one state representative in Beaufort and Jasper counties will face opposition in the June primary. Democrat Rep. Bill Bowers will face Democrat Curtis Brantley for the District 122 seat, which represents Beaufort, Hampton and Jasper counties. The winner of that primary will face Republican Grady Woods, a Ridgeland town councilman who filed for the seat Sunday.

Hilton Head financial adviser Jeff Bradley filed for Rep. Andy Patrick's District 123 seat. Patrick pondered a run for state superintendent of education, but will not run for that office or his current seat after financial problems became public as part of his ongoing divorce case.

The remaining state representatives in Beaufort and Jasper counties will run unopposed. They are Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort; Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton; Rep. Weston Newton, R-Bluffton; and Kenneth Hodges, D-Green Pond.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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