Candidates for state and county offices spent the weekend knocking on doors, working the phones and reaching out to potential voters ahead of today's primary election.
Their efforts probably will continue through Election Day, as the candidates and their surrogates turn to phones, email and social media seeking support in an election in which turnout is expected to be 15 percent or lower.
Polls will be open throughout Beaufort County from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters must bring a photo ID issued by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles or a voter-registration card to cast a ballot.
'PRETTY MUCH A TOSS UP'
After months of campaigning, the race between Weston Newton and Jerry Stewart for S.C. House District 120 "could go either way," says Jim Dickson, a state GOP executive committee member from Beaufort County.
"They are both Republicans in good standing. They are both people who are well-respected by the party and party members," Dickson said. "I would have to say at this point, it's pretty much a toss-up."
District 120 was redrawn after the 2010 Census and has no incumbent. It includes parts of Bluffton, Okatie, Burton and a sliver of Hilton Head Island.
Both candidates spent time campaigning over the weekend. Stewart said he maintained his "normal" campaigning routine, which has mostly included meeting with voters face to face. Newton said he and his supporters knocked on doors and met with voters.
Bluffton businesswoman Laura Sterling also had sought the nomination for the House seat but was one of about 200 Republican candidates statewide disqualified after the state Supreme Court ruled that candidates were supposed to file their economic interest forms online at the same time they filed their intention to run.
As a result of the mess, nearly 300 polling places in 14 counties won't even be open, and about 436,000 registered voters won't be able to participate in primaries, according to Chris Whitmire of the State Election Commission.
A CHANGED RACE?
Ray Garza, a Republican candidate for Beaufort County Clerk of Court, said he's knocked on the doors of more than 2,500 homes and businesses in recent months, including areas he visited last weekend.
But he said voters responded differently to his visits after a revelation Friday that he received $919 from former Clerk Elizabeth Smith to cover personal expenses during his 2 1/2 year-stint as an employee in the Clerk's Office. Smith was convicted in 2010 of embezzling $23,000 from the Clerk's Office.
"I am doing the same things I was doing before, but now the reception is different," he said Monday.
The payments, while not against the law, were "inappropriate," according to 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone. Garza said he did not ask for the payments, which were issued by Smith for clothes, medical bills, and an education and treatment class required after a years-old DUI conviction. Garza said he did not repay the money.
Garza is challenging Jerri Roseneau, a Republican appointed in August 2009 to replace Smith. Attempts to reach Roseneau Monday were unsuccessful.
'NOT AN UNFAMILIAR AREA'
Beaufort County Councilman Herbert Glaze said he's gone door-to-door, talked to voters on the street and visited churches during his campaign for the newly drawn District 1 council seat, which includes Seabrook, Sheldon, Dale, Lobeco and parts of Burton.
Glaze, who has represented Burton-area voters on County Council for the past 18 years, said the new district is "not an unfamiliar area."
"I know a lot of people in that area, and I have a lot of relatives in that area, as well," he said. "It all boils down to, everybody wants the same things ... just to be represented."
Glaze is running against fellow Democratic Councilman Gerald Dawson, who has represented much of the district since he was elected in 2004.
"I've done everything I had to do over the weekend," Dawson said, referring to last-minute campaigning.
Beaufort County has about 101,000 registered voters, but only a small percentage is expected to determine who wins these contests.
"In areas where there is no district-specific race ... I feel like 10 percent is the most we will get for turnout," said Scott Marshall, county elections executive director.
"In areas where we have some competitive races -- for instance, in House District 120 or County Council District 1 -- I expect we will have turnout between 12 and 15 percent."