Beaufort City Council will have new faces for the first time since 2011, as Stephen Murray and Phil Cromer beat incumbent Donnie Beer and former Mayor Bill Rauch on Tuesday.
"I think this is a sign that (voters) wanted some change," said Cromer, a former Port Royal and Ridgeland town manager, who grabbed one of two spots available in the non-partisan, at-large election. "... People basically said, 'We don't want the status quo.' "
Murray, who owns a kazoo factory and T-shirt company, topped balloting with 35.2 percent of the vote. Cromer took 26.7 percent, according to unofficial returns.
Results will be certified by county election officials on Friday.
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Beer captured just 19.3 percent of the vote, ending her 24-year tenure on council.
Rauch, who resigned as mayor in 2008 amid Security and Exchange Commission charges of insider trading, failed in his political comeback, capturing 18.3 percent.
Cromer, 64, and Murray, 33, ran on similar platforms, which Murray said he believes played into the election results.
"I think they have sent a very clear message tonight about being more business friendly, being more transparent, being more fiscally responsible, but also about making sure we are looking at creating more economic diversity, more jobs," said Murray, currently a member of the city's Redevelopment Commission and a former Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce board president.
Beer, 73, a former notary and wedding planner, had won six consecutive terms on council. She said she will now focus on her volunteer work.
"If, after all of the votes are counted and I'm still in third place, I've done my best," Beer said, indicating she hoped the addition of absentee votes would change the outcome. "And hopefully, those people who supported me know that."
Rauch, 63, a ghostwriter, leased a house in Cottage Farm the day he filed as a candidate for office. He was elected to City Council in 1993 and to the mayor's post for the first of three terms in 1999.
He wished the new council members well and said he's "pulling for the new guys to straighten" out the city.
"The city faces some very big challenges, and these things have to get addressed quickly," Rauch said.
Election Day in Beaufort had a unique flair, as candidates campaigning on street corners were joined at one point by Forrest Gump impersonator Paul Dengler, who was in town after an appearance at a military reunion in Charleston.
"Elections are like a box of chocolates too -- you never know whatcha gonna get," he said while hoisting a "Run, Forrest, run," sign.
The council race also entailed a glitch during early returns -- votes attributed to a Moss Creek precinct in greater Bluffton were shown in the Beaufort City Council results. The word "Moss" caused votes in the Moss Creek and the three Mossy Oaks precincts to show up in different races, Beaufort County Board of Elections and Registration director Marie Smalls said.
It was just a computer error that's been resolved, no votes were affected, Smalls said.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.
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