Candidates keep low profile on Ward 3 election day

Candidates running for the vacant Ward 3 seat on Hilton Head Island Town Council are keeping a low profile today as voters head to the polls.

Beaufort County Councilman Steve Baer, 68; Lee Edwards, 43, president and CEO of a Hilton Head-based landscaping company; marketing representative Ryan McAvoy, 31; marketing consultant David Warren, 55; and retired money manager Peter Zych, 71, are vying for the Ward 3 seat vacated by Drew Laughlin, the island's new mayor.

The council term expires in December 2012. Ward 3 includes Spanish Wells, Wexford, Long Cove Club, Indigo Run, Point Comfort and Shipyard Plantation. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of votes, the top two vote-getters head to a runoff March 1.

Aside from McAvoy, candidates preferred to make phone calls and send e-mails to friends, family, neighbors and supporters encouraging them to vote.

McAvoy was the only visible candidate campaigning Tuesday afternoon, holding a bright-pink piece of poster board with his name, a bright-yellow cut out of the island and a Polaroid of himself near the entrance to Christ Lutheran Church, 829 William Hilton Parkway — one of the five polling locations for the ward.

A supporter held a similar, bright-yellow sign off Cordillo Parkway near the entrance to another polling location at St. Luke's Church, 50 Pope Ave.

Neither sign mentioned his candidacy for the Town Council seat, the election or to vote for him.

"I'm hoping for a lot," McAvoy said. "I figure anyone coming in will recognize my name" and candidacy for Town Council.

S.C. election law prohibits signs, campaign literature and any other campaign material within 200 feet of the entrance to a polling site. McAvoy was well beyond the 200 feet.

Candidates are allowed to wear a label with their name and the office he or she is seeking outside a polling location. State law prohibits candidates running for office from displaying any identification, including campaign buttons or sticker, inside a voting site.

Edwards spent the day making phone calls, sending e-mails and shaking hands with people while at lunch, reminding them to vote.

"At this point, most of the heavy lifting has been done and it's more getting people to vote," he said. "I did a lot of door-knocking this weekend. Today, I gotta work and try to make a living."

Warren, as well, spent the day working.

"I made phone calls over the weekend and my wife and I cruised the neighborhood (in Spanish Wells and Point Comfort) on our bike-built-for-two, knocking on doors," he said.

Zych could not immediately be reached for comment.

Baer is out of town.

Edwards and Warren said they're surprised by the amount of interest shown in the election — both from the number of candidates running and amount of people who have publicly and privately expressed their views about the campaigns. Both, however, said they were hoping turnout would be higher.

"It seems to me like the town is pretty well energized. I think that will help as the community moves forward to tackle pressing issues" as to extension of the island airport runway, marketing Hilton Head and revising town ordinances to encourage redevelopment, Warren said.

"We are seeing this groundswell of support to move onto the next stage of Hilton Head," he said. "My goal is that Hilton Head will be the leader in sustaining a world-class community as it has been in developing one."

Edwards said the island has reached a tipping point.

"Our commercial buildings have been on a slow, downward slide and a lot of people see that and realize we need to reinvest in our island and make sure it continues to be a great place and not continue to let it become mediocre," he said.

Both said they're hopeful and look forward to the possible opportunity of working with current members of Town Council to improve the island's image and residents' quality of life.

Each also applauded their challengers for running positive campaigns.

"All have run up-front campaigns that have been great for the system and (I) applaud them all for running," Warren said.

Edwards said the experience has been rewarding.

"It's been a little more fun than I expected," he said. "In the fact that I've met so many people I wouldn't have met otherwise. I've learned a lot more about the island. Really, the only negatives are it is very time consuming (campaigning). It takes away from friends and family ... but win, lose or draw, I'll look back on this as a positive experience."