Beaufort County Council incumbents fend off challengers in Republican primary

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comJune 10, 2014 

From left, Paul Sommerville, Jerry Stewart and Stu Rodman.

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All three Beaufort County Council incumbents fended off challengers in Tuesday's primary election.

The wins likely earn Chairman Paul Sommerville and councilmen Jerry Stewart and Stu Rodman reelection since they have so far have no opposition in November.

The three overcame Republican challengers who contended council needs fresh perspectives and a sharper focus on cutting spending.

Rodman faced the tightest race for his seat to represent the eastern and southern portions of Hilton Head Island.

He secured just 50 more votes than his challenger, Hilton Head Island attorney Lauren Martel, for 52 percent of the 1,319 votes cast, according to election results on the South Carolina Elections Commission website.

"It's very close, so I think this should be a wake up call for Mr. Rodman, and (the competition) was a healthy thing for the community, too," Martel said.

Rodman, who did not campaign, was not concerned about the narrow victory and said he's simply glad to continue serving.

"Well, I guess that means I've got to keep working," Rodman joked. "I've enjoyed working on the council and I'm glad to continue with the voters' approval."

Sommerville defeated his challenger, former school board member Jim Bequette, with 56.5 percent of the 1,458 votes cast in the district covering a portion of Beaufort, Lady's Island and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, according to the state site.

For the council's Sun City seat, Stewart decisively defeated history professor and first-time candidate Stephen Bacon with almost 66 percent of the 1,987 votes cast, according to election results.

"I'm elated, I'm looking forward to the next four years," Stewart said. "We didn't have the turnout I'd like, but it's a primary on an off year."

In fact this year's turnout was low, elections officials have said.

About 13,800 ballots were cast Tuesday -- about 12.5 percent of registered voters in the county -- according to the state site. That number is down about 7.5 percent compared to voter turnout in the previous off-election year primary in 2010, according to the S.C. Elections Commission.

Much of the apparent disinterest likely stems from the lack of party primaries for the governor's race and the high number of uncontested local races, according to Marie Smalls, director of the Beaufort County Board of Elections and Registration.

Incumbents in three other County Council seats up for re-election have 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. Democrat Laura Von Harten, who represents Port Royal, will face Independence Party candidate Brian MacDermant in November.

The county board of elections will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday in Beeaufort to certify the results.

In Jasper County, Democratic incumbent County Councilmen Martin Sauls defeated Samuel Gregory and Theodus Drayton won over Leon Smith. In the November general election, Sauls will face Republican Richard Arizillo while Drayton will face Republican Kelly Champlin.

Jasper County Probate Judge Buster Kleckley defeated challenger Rodney Brown for the Democrat ticket and does not so far have opposition in November.

The Jasper County's Election and Voters Registration Board of Canvassers will meet at 8 a.m. Thursday in Ridgeland to certify its election results.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

Beaufort County June 10, 2014, primary official results

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