Hilton Head to choose a mayor today

From YouTube and Facebook to television, radio and postcards, the two remaining candidates for mayor of Hilton Head Island are using media new and old to lure voters back to the polls.

The seven-way general election Nov. 2 featured high voter turnout, motivated in part by contentious Congressional and gubernatorial races, referendums and get-out-the-vote efforts by political parties -- all factors absent from

today's runoff.

Architect and town planning commissioner Tom Crews faces attorney and Ward 3 Town Councilman Drew Laughlin.

Laughlin received the most votes -- 31 percent -- Nov. 2. Crews was second with 25 percent. A runoff is necessary because no one captured a majority of votes.

The winner replaces Tom Peeples as mayor, who did not seek re-election after 15 years in office.

Both said they are worried turnout will be lighter, yet both agree interest in the mayoral race has not waned.

"The people I talk to say they'll go back and vote again," Laughlin said. "Concerns about the general economic condition and future of the island, mixed with seven candidates running around getting people interested the past two months -- the combination of those things means people are still interested in the race for mayor and we hope we have a good turnout."

Crews echoed those sentiments.

"I think most people are clearly aware who the two people are. That's allowed us to have a more focused and direct message," he said.

Crews and Laughlin made last-minute ad buys Sunday and Monday directing voters back to the polls to support them.

Crews ran newspaper, TV and radio ads with sound bites of those who have endorsed him as the candidate with "experience, vision, leadership and skills Hilton Head needs." He sent similar messages on Facebook and promoted two campaign videos on YouTube, including a clip of him asking for votes using titles of movies starring actor Tom Cruise. In it, he says being mayor can be "risky business" and calls himself a "maverick" and "top gun."

"It was a tongue-in-cheek, fun thing to do. Too many people ask me about my name. We couldn't let that go unused," Crews said.

Laughlin ran ads, made robo-calls and sent postcards and Facebook messages promoting himself as an "experienced and proven leader" and "a smart choice."

He also touted an Oct. 28 video of Peeples endorsing him and picked up a new endorsement Monday from Ward 1 Town Councilman Bill Ferguson.

"I believe he's a reasonable and good guy and has the issues important to me and my constituents in mind, such as reducing property taxes, extending drainage and sewer service to under-served areas of the island, and pursuing economic development through private-public ventures," Ferguson said.

About 50 percent of registered Hilton Head voters turned out Nov. 2. Whether turnout will be the same Tuesday is hard to say, said Scott Marshall, county elections director.

"Municipal elections are very hard to gauge," Marshall said. "The runoff should generate a lot of interest, but that may not equate to heavy turnout."

One thing is certain: Voting will be much quicker, with only two candidates to choose from as the single question on the ballot, Marshall said.