Voters in Tuesday's primary election will decide several key races that could affect the region for years to come.
In newly redrawn S.C. House District 120, voters will choose between Republican Beaufort County councilmen Weston Newton and Jerry Stewart for a seat that gives the region another voice in Columbia.
Meanwhile, northern Beaufort County voters will decide between Democratic county councilmen Gerald Dawson or Herbert Glaze in District 1, which was also redrawn after the 2010 Census.
In the lone countywide race, voters will decide between two Republicans running for Beaufort County Clerk of Court. Clerk Jerri Roseneau faces a challenge from her one-time colleague Ray Garza.
None of the primary winners face a major-party opponent in November's general election.
Stewart, 67, argues for a regional approach to economic development and touts his background as a university professor, business executive and county councilman. As a retiree with no school-age kids at home, he pledges to focus his energies in Columbia.
Newton, 45, runs a law firm, and has chaired the county council for the past 10 years. He has run largely on his county council achievements, his ties to the community and his "depth of understanding" of local issues.
State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said adding a new member to the region's delegation could bring progress on issues such as education funding reform.
"Slowly but surely, the distribution of state funding for K-12 is becoming more fair," he said in an email. "But we've yet to attain true equity funding for our county's schools, and another voice for reform in the House will definitely help."
After redistricting, District 120 now includes parts of Bluffton, Okatie, Burton and a sliver of northern Hilton Head Island.
Beaufort County also redrew its legislative districts after the 2010 Census. District 1 now includes Seabrook, Sheldon, Dale, Lobeco and parts of Burton.
Dawson, 59, has represented Sheldon, Lobeco and Dale in the 6th District since 2004. He favors a regional approach to economic development, and says he's voted his conscience over the years despite political pressures.
Glaze, 61, has represented northern Burton and unincorporated parts of the county in District 8 since 1993. He proposes creating new incentives such as tax cuts or reduced impact fees to attract businesses.
The winner will face a changed landscape after the fall general election. Northern Beaufort County will have one fewer seat on the council, while southern Beaufort County gains one. There will be also be one fewer Democrat on the GOP-controlled board.
Longtime councilmen say those changes shouldn't affect overall council dynamics.
"It doesn't seem to be a big deal to me because I think most of the people that get elected to county council (believe) all of us are in one boat together," said Democratic Councilman William McBride.
Meantime, whoever wins the race for House District 120 will have to resign from county council, creating a new opening south of the Broad River.
"We are going to lose two good guys any way you cut it," Council Vice Chairman Paul Sommerville said.
CLERK OF COURT
Three years after a corruption scandal that led to the former Clerk's resignation, the woman appointed to replace her is seeking her first full term. Roseneau, 50, says she has improved record keeping and transparency, slashed annual budgets and restored confidence in the office.
Garza, 35, worked for the Clerk's office for about 2 1/2 years from 2007 to 2009, including about a four month stint after Roseneau was appointed. He pledges to improve the accuracy of court records, open a Bluffton satellite office and improve customer service.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.