As the hours before Election Day dwindled, four candidates for Beaufort City Council turned up the volume to get their messages out one last time.
And one sharpened her tone, too.
Incumbent Councilwoman Donnie Beer, former Mayor Bill Rauch, businessman Stephen Murray, and former Port Royal and Ridgeland town administrator Phil Cromer are vying for one of two seats at stake in the nonpartisan, at-large election.
Northern Beaufort County voters also will pick winners in County Council and Board of Education races Tuesday. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
Beaufort City Council is guaranteed one new member because current Councilman Mike Sutton honored a pledge not to serve more than two terms and is not seeking re-election. Murray and Cromer were the first challengers in the race.
They have spent the waning days of the campaign focusing on economic-development issues, fiscal responsibility and government accountability.
"I would encourage voters to do their homework because they're fortunate to have a choice between the four of us, and I hope they choose a candidate who will represent them with the integrity and the voice they deserve," said Murray, adding he plans to continue campaigning well into Election Day.
Cromer spent much of Monday in meetings, but said he was relaxed because he has done all he can.
"They're going to be electing two council members who are going to help run this town for years, and there's going to be a lot of issues," Cromer said. "They're going to need someone with experience but who also is open to change."
Beer and Rauch spent the final day of their campaigns knocking on doors and handing out business cards -- and verbally tussling with each other.
Rauch has been out of city government since resigning as mayor in 2008 and served with Beer on council in the 1990s and 2000s. He said he decided to re-enter local politics one Sunday after seeing a family of churchgoers pulled over by city police -- an attempt to scrape up revenue and an indication of the city's poor fiscal state, Rauch has said.
At a forum late last week, Beer accused Rauch of making "uninformed and misleading" statements about police. She also noted Rauch has pledged to cut taxes if elected but supported what has been called the largest tax increase in Beaufort's history -- to build the municipal complex on Boundary Street -- while still mayor.
"It's all (out in the) open now," Beer said of her criticism of Rauch. "It's all up to the voters now, and if people don't vote, they really don't have reason to complain."
Rauch said he voted for the tax increase because voters supported the referendum for it and the buildings were needed. His comments about the police and services are based on what he hears from officers within the department, he said.
"It's not the police; it's the police department," he said. "And it's not the department; it's the way they are being funded and starved by City Hall to fund other projects."
In the other northern Beaufort County races:
- Democratic incumbent Laura Von Harten will defend her County Council District 4 seat against petition candidate Alice Howard. Brian MacDermant also has announced a write-in campaign after failing to get on the ballot with the Independence Party.
- Write-in candidates Lundy Baker and Joseph Dunkle will not appear on ballots Tuesday -- and neither will anyone else seeking the District 4 seat on the Beaufort County Board of Education. No one filed to replace Jim Beckert, who leaves the board and runs unopposed in the general election for county auditor. However, Baker and Dunkle are waging write-in campaigns to represent Port Royal and part of Beaufort on the school board.
- School board Chairman Bill Evans faces no ballot opposition in the nonpartisan election, but Terry Thomas is running a write-in campaign for the District 2 seat representing Lady's Island.
- Voters also will decide whether the county should issue as much as $20 million in general obligation bonds for its Rural and Critical Lands preservation program.
- In Jasper County, two incumbent Democrats face challenges for their County Council seats. Councilman Martin Sauls IV faces Richard L. Arzillo for the seat representing Coosawhatchie Township, and Councilman Theodus Drayton is challenged by Kelly Champlin for the Robertville Township seat.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.