Two Beaufort City Council candidates clashed Tuesday night over downtown parking, how council members are elected and an image on the Beaufort Black Chamber of Commerce's web site.
All four hopefuls running for the two at-large seats on the Beaufort City Council spoke and answered questions Tuesday night at the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's candidate forum at the Quality Inn on Boundary Street.
The forum also featured candidates for Beaufort County Treasurer, Beaufort County Board of Education Board and three-quarters of the field vying to represent South Carolina's 2nd Congressional District.
The forum grew contentious when incumbent Councilman Mike Sutton criticized the Beaufort Black Chamber of Commerce for taking tax dollars to help market the area to tourists, and featuring a picture of Beaufort, North Carolina, on its web site.
Larry Holman, another of the City Council candidates, is the chamber's president.
"We spend lots of money on marketing, and we have several marketing groups," Sutton said. "And what we need to make sure of in the county is that we don't give money to agencies like the Beaufort Black Chamber of Commerce who uses Beaufort, N.C. as the picture on their website representing our city. To see that after we've pumped all that money into it really aggravates me, Larry."
Holman fired back.
"It's obvious Mr. Sutton has never been to our web site," Holman said.
An examination of the Web site by the Beaufort Gazette found one waterfront image there that was not of Beaufort, South Carolina.
The two again butted heads over downtown parking, and whether the city should move from an at large-system to district representation, in which each council member is elected by residents within a geographically defined area.
Incumbent Donnie Beer and newcomer Kimberlee Kolton also made remarks and answered questions Tuesday.
During her allotted time, Beer focused on continuing to serve the city and its residents.
"I've worked hard, I've stayed involved, I love this community and I love what I do," Beer said. "Beaufort is a wonderful town. We've come a long way and we've got a lot way to go."
Kolton said she's running to inject new life into the race.
"If people are apathetic, they deserve the kind of government they end up with," Kolton said.
BEAUFORT BOARD OF EDUCATION
Candidates for the two open seats on the Beaufort County School Board also spoke.
District 7 candidate Robert White, who is attempting to represent Lady's Island on the school board, said he wants to help the county's school system become a source of community pride.
"This is an unpolished apple," White said. "We could grow to be one of the flagship educational systems in the state of South Carolina."
His opponent, Bill Evans said lobbying the state for more funding will be essential to any success.
"We must work with our legislative delegation to establish a more secure source of funding from the state," Evans said.
District 5 candidate Fay Patrick-Alston of St. Helena Island said she would emphasize engaging parents as a way to better county schools.
"We need to encourage school board members to go out into the community and host regular community meetings in their districts," Patrick-Alston said. "We need to work with the parents to help form a partnership between them and the school districts.
Patrick-Alston's opponent, incumbent Michael Rivers, did not attend Tuesday's forum.
2nd CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
The forum also featured all three of the candidates vying to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson and represent South Carolina's 2nd Congressional District, which includes Beaufort County.
Marc Beaman, a Hilton Head Island contractor who is running as the Constitution Party nominee, said he was in the race to take back government for the residents of the 10-county district.
"Government is not the answer," Beaman said. "We know it's the problem. You and I can solve the problems, and the government cannot. Together we can unite and take back our country."
Forum attendees heard a similar message from Eddie McCain, who is running as a Libertarian.
"I just don't like where the Republican and Democratic parties are going," McCain said. "I know that third-party candidates historically receive 3 to 5 percent of the vote, but if there was ever a time that a third-party candidate had a legitimate chance of winning, it's now."
Wilson did not attend Thursday's forum, but that didn't stop Rob Miller, the race's Democratic candidate, from taking the Republican incumbent to task.
"It's a real shame that Congressman Wilson could not spare an hour of his evening to be here tonight," Miller said. "I firmly believe that to change Washington, D.C., you have to change the people you send there."