Elections

Voter’s guide: Where do Hilton Head mayor runoff candidates stand on key issues?

In runoff, Hilton Head mayoral candidates will need votes in these precincts to win

Unofficial results show how the votes went for the Hilton Head Island mayoral race
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Unofficial results show how the votes went for the Hilton Head Island mayoral race

The two Hilton Head mayoral candidates may have the same job title right now as sitting Town Council members, but they differ on many key issues in the race to be the island’s top elected official.

Kim Likins and John McCann fall on similar sides of issues such as workforce housing and timeshare development, but differ on others such as the town’s visioning process, chamber transparency, and funding for the arts center.

The candidates have sparred at public forums and via email blasts, but will not debate before the runoff election on Nov. 20.

Likins represents Ward 4 on Town Council, where she has served two, four-year terms.

She is the director of operations at the Boys & Girls Club of Hilton Head Island and said she wants to focus on workforce housing, preserving Gullah culture and continuing Hilton Head’s “environmental stewardship” and conservation.

McCann represents Ward 6 on Town Council, where he has served since 2012.

He is a retired CEO in the finance industry. He said he wants to increase council transparency by cutting back on executive sessions, promoting fiscal responsibility and focusing on Hilton Head bridge and U.S. 278 corridor improvements.

Here’s a breakdown of where the two stand on issues based on their answers in interviews with the Island Packet, their responses in public forums and endorsement meetings with the Island Packet editorial board:

Workforce

  • Likins wants to repurpose vacant commercial space for housing, but the town should be “intentional” about the Land Management Ordinance and zoning land for residential use.
  • McCann also wants to use vacant commercial space for workforce housing. He said there should be no government subsidies for that housing and that “the capital markets will take care of it.”

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Chamber of Commerce transparency

  • Likins supported a request by outgoing Mayor David Bennett to include quarterly spending reports on how the Hilton HEad-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce spends approximately $2.5 million each year in tourist tax money. Likins thinks the public should see “every penny” that the chamber receives.
  • McCann has flip-flopped on chamber transparency. He told the Island Packet editorial board in October that “(the public) should see every dollar they spend without seeing the actual invoices.” In an email to supporters on Nov. 15, McCann said “The Chamber of Commerce must be transparent in the use of our ATAX funds. Period.”

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Timeshares

Both candidates voted in favor of rezoning for timeshares on Folly Field Road in 2015.

  • Likins told the editorial board she would vote differently on the matter today because she said there “are enough timeshares” on the island. “If there’s any one that I could change, this would be the one,” Likins said of her vote.
  • McCann struck a similar cord in a campaign email on Thursday. “I’ve called for a moratorium on further timeshare development,” McCann wrote. “There are enough timeshares on Hilton Head Island. Period.”

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Arts Center Funding

  • Likins said she voted against a $575,000 request for funding for lighting for the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina because it was not budgeted. She said council did not have enough information to evaluate the needs of arts center given the large amount of money requested.
  • McCann said he voted for fundsto help the arts center revamp an aging lighting system “so this terrific community asset could continue to provide excellent entertainment to our residents and guests.”

Kathleen Bateson, Arts Center of Coastal Carolina CEO and president, talks about why the Town of Hilton Head should pay for new lights at the arts center.

Alliances on Town Council

Likins, who works as Bennett’s mayor pro tem, has typically voted on the same side as the outgoing mayor and Town Council member David Ames.

She said she and Bennett have disagreed on some projects, such as the development of Shelter Cove and the USCB hospitality campus on the island, both of which she supports.

McCann said that the last four years under Bennett have been “lost” and called one of Bennett’s biggest projects, the town’s visioning process, a “mistake.”

McCann frequently votes with council members Bill Harkins and Tom Lennox, who both endorsed him and secured re-election in this year’s general election.

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Endorsements

Likins has picked up endorsements from several people, including:

  • Town Council member Ames.
  • Tim Ridge, a former Town Council candidate in this year’s election.
  • Stu Rodman, a member of Beaufort County Council.

McCann has picked up support from several people, including:

  • Drew Laughlin and Tom Peeples, two former mayors.
  • Three sitting Town Council members: Harkins, Lennox and Marc Grant, who represents Ward 1.
  • Alan Perry and Barry Ginn, former mayoral candidates in this year’s election.
  • Steve Fobes, a member of Beaufort County Council.

One omission in the endorsement roundup is that of Bennett, who told the Island Packet on Nov. 15 that he didn’t plan to endorse either candidate.

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