Tabor Vaux won the Republican nomination for a Bluffton-area seat on Beaufort County Council Tuesday night, defeating fellow first-time candidate Mark Lawson by a wide margin.
With all eight precincts reporting, Vaux captured 64 percent of the vote to Lawson's 36 percent. Unofficial returns showed Vaux with 529 votes to 296 for Lawson. Just 10 percent of the eligible District 9 voters cast ballots, according to Scott Marshall, executive director of the Beaufort County Board of Elections and Registration.
Vaux, who celebrated his win at the Old Town Dispensary in Bluffton, thanked friends, family and volunteers who he says propelled him to victory.
"This was very little of me and a huge group effort," he said in a phone interview.
No Democrat is running for the seat, which includes neighborhoods surrounding Old Town Bluffton, New Riverside, Westbury Park and Daufuskie Island. Vaux will be declared the seat's overall winner if no write-in candidate emerges by Friday.
State Rep. Weston Newton, R-Bluffton, occupied the seat for more than a decade before resigning last month to join the S.C. House.
Vaux, 29, is an associate with the Bluffton firm Vaux & Marscher and the son of Bluffton attorney Roberts Vaux.
The winner promised to consider cuts to non-essential county services as a way to save money but also indicated flexibility on taxes.
He supports ongoing efforts to protect and restore the May and Okatie rivers, and pledged to reach out to local municipalities on that and other regional efforts, including economic development.
Lawson, 47, a relations manager with Servpro of Beaufort County and a longtime fixture in local youth sports, portrayed himself as an political outsider. His campaign signs touted his maturity, which some believed was a subtle jab at Vaux' relative youth.
But Vaux, whose family has deep ties to Bluffton, racked up key endorsements from well-known local politicians and from a who's-who of local businessmen.
He also raised more than $11,000, according to pre-election campaign filings, roughly 30 times what Lawson raised leading up to the election. Vaux used that money to hire two consultants for at least $4,000 and to buy newspaper advertisements in The Island Packet and other publications.
Lawson could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Election's chief Marshall said the results will remain unofficial until they are certified Thursday by the elections board.
At this point, however, Marshall said everything but provisional ballots had been counted. Although it's not clear how many of those were cast Tuesday, he doesn't believe there are enough to change the outcome.
Tuesday's vote was the first time South Carolina's new voter ID law has been used in Beaufort County. Aside from a single complaint, Marshall said there were no issues with the new law, which requires voters to show a valid photo ID.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.