Beaufort News

Crews campaign changes 'vision' in runoff against Laughlin

  • Hilton Head Island mayoral hopeful Tom Crews and some of his supporters are making a new case -- and, his opponent says, a strange one -- to explain why the architect should be the next person to lead town government.
  • Crews and Drew Laughlin would work well together, the Crews camp says.

    Laughlin, however, maintains he's still the only one for the job.

    Crews says voters should choose him in Tuesday's runoff partly because if Laughlin loses, Laughlin will keep his Town Council seat, and the council would be more effective with both Crews and Laughlin on board.

    But Laughlin says he's not buying that.

    "It sounds to me like they're saying Laughlin's been too good a councilman to be mayor," Laughlin said.

    It's a new message from Crews, who touts his "creative vision" and nearly 25 years of experience working with the town, which includes serving on the Planning Commission and chairing the Comprehensive Plan Committee.

    Now, Crews said he also is reminding voters that "Drew's already on the council. If they vote for me, they get Drew, too. That's a positive message."

    "Drew and I don't disagree on the issues very much at all," Crews added. "We need like-minded people so we can have consensus to act on the issues. If Drew's elected mayor, there will be an empty council seat until a special election, and we don't know who that person will be."

    Beaufort County Councilman Stu Rodman made similar points in a letter endorsing Crews.

    "We face immediate and important problems. Town Council will be more effective with both Tom and Drew," Rodman wrote.

    Town Councilman John Safay, who endorsed Laughlin last week, rejected that argument.

    "For Crews and his supporters to resort to this kind of twisted logic sounds like an act of desperation on their part," Safay said.

    Laughlin, a lawyer, said he has the necessary leadership experience thanks to his seven years on Town Council and before that as chairman of the town Planning Commission and Design Review Board. He says he can build consensus on key issues.

    He's also not worried about a potential council replacement.

    "There's no reason to think my seat won't be filled by a qualified person," he said. "You've seen the interest and quality of candidates in this election cycle."

    If Laughlin wins, he would vacate his council seat and be sworn in as mayor Dec. 7. A special election would be held March 8 to fill the remainder of his council term, which expires in December 2012. Candidate filing for the seat would begin at noon Dec. 24 and end at noon Jan. 3, said Scott Marshall, county elections director.

    Laughlin's Ward 3 seat covers these gated communities: Spanish Wells, Wexford, Long Cove Club and Shipyard.

    For Tuesday's runoff, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

    Laughlin won the most votes, about 31 percent of the total, in the seven-way race Nov. 2. Crews came in second with about 25 percent. A runoff is necessary because no candidate captured a majority of the votes.