Beaufort News

Port Royal mayor Sam Murray voted into 6th term; Klein to stay on council, joined by Ashmore

Port Royal mayor Sam Murray waves to passing cars while campaigning near the polling place at the Port Royal Town Hall on Election Day, Nov. 3, in Port Royal.  Murray won re-election.
Port Royal mayor Sam Murray waves to passing cars while campaigning near the polling place at the Port Royal Town Hall on Election Day, Nov. 3, in Port Royal. Murray won re-election.

Sam Murray leaned in and examined the election results posted on the door at Port Royal Town Hall on Tuesday night, scratching out the math on a piece of paper under the lights.

The numbers all but assured Murray's sixth term as the town's mayor. Confirmation came a little later.

"Go back to work as usual," Murray said of what's next. "We've got a council meeting tomorrow night; we'll go back to work as we have in the past."

 Sam Murray (i)Kristina WetzelChuck WoodJohn Winner (withdrew)Write-inTotal
Port Royal mayor3461703220550

The longtime Port Royal resident and retired school principal earned the chance he wanted to close a chapter on the town's history, ushering in the sale and development of the port property.

Murray garnered 346 votes, almost 63 percent, to fend off the energetic campaign of former helicopter pilot Kristina Wetzel. She earned 170 votes, or about 31 percent.

In the town council race for two spots, incumbent Tom Klein grabbed his seat for four more years and political newcomer Jerry Ashmore, who manages safety and workforce at The Greenery, was voted into the other post.

Klein led the council race with 349 votes, and Ashmore finished with 295. The third candidate, Darryl Owens, missed out on a seat with 234.

 Jerry AshmoreTom Klein (i)Darryl OwensWrite-inTotal
Port Royal council2953492346884

The turnout was high in spite of morning rain, driven by competition in the mayor's race for the first time in more than 10 years and engaged town council candidates.

Murray toted his red-and-white campaign signs about 100 yards from Town Hall on Tuesday, braving morning showers with Klein and Ashmore.

Wetzel had embarked on a door-to-door effort to register voters and see all of Port Royal, noting that some residents outside of the Old Village felt out of touch.

In the end, the message wasn't enough to unseat Murray, who has lived in Port Royal since 1966 and served as mayor the past 20 years.

The 75-year-old said he ran again to see through the sale of the port property, which is under contract but must sell by Dec. 31 or else go to auction. If the sale doesn't close, Murray wants to explore options for the town controlling the property and to avoid working with multiple entities.

"We're still gathering information on that," Murray said. "We do have the option to get involved, especially if this development falls through."

Klein, who campaigned with Murray, also pushed the idea of the town controlling the property, at least in part, to ensure development agreements associated with the port are followed. He was also in step with Murray in favoring a local-option sales tax over a capital projects sales tax and with the town maintaining its shrimp docks.

Klein said he has concerns about the status of the current contract.

"It's just very disheartening," Klein said. "Enough is enough."

Ashmore met last month with developer Whit Suber to walk the port property and learn what members of Palmetto Alliance Property group might plan. Ashmore, a father of five and town resident of 15 years, is also adamant any development fall within the guidelines set in agreements already in place.

"That's what the people want," Ashmore said. "I know there are going to be some compromises along the way, like any relationship, but we need to stay within the guardrails that have been laid out for us."

Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at