Beer, Sutton retain Beaufort City Council seats

Beaufort City Council incumbents Donnie Beer and Mike Sutton claimed victory as the two led the race to fill two at-large, non-partisan seats with a majority of precincts reporting late Tuesday.

The top two vote-getters win the seats.

As of 11 p.m., the S.C. Election Commission website showed Sutton, 52, in the lead with about 37 percent of votes followed by Beer, 69, with about 30 percent.

Challengers Larry Holman, 63, and Kimberlee Kolton, 63, followed with about 19 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

"I just feel really pleased and proud that people put their confidence in me for another four years," said Beer, a native Beaufortonian who was at her Pigeon Point home awaiting vote totals with friends and family.

Beer, an event planner who has served on council for 19 years, also ran for mayor in 2004 and 2008, losing both times.

Sutton, a building contractor and area native, said he would "like to see the official results tomorrow before we celebrate too much."

"It's not an easy task," Sutton said of another four-year term. "I'll just give it my best and see what I can do."

Sutton, seeking his second, four-year term on council, lost a bid for mayor in 2008.

Kolton, a retired social worker and nurse with no previous political experience, said at about 10 p.m. she was going to bed and would examine the outcome today.

"I knew that this was a very hard thing to do, to unseat two well-liked incumbents," Kolton said. "I'm glad I went for it."

Holman, president of the Beaufort Black Chamber of Commerce, could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Beer and Sutton begin their new terms at the first regular council meeting in December.

Sutton had debated whether he could devote as much time to council as he has in the past, given that he and his wife were caring for his ailing father full time at the time of the filing deadline.

His father has since moved into a full-time assisted living center, Sutton said.

"Everything happens for a reason," Sutton said. "If I have won this thing, I can get back to business as normal and really dig into issues as I have done in the past."

Sutton supports term limits and has repeatedly said this will be his final four years as a councilman. His top priorities include encouraging the Beaufort County School District to move its administrative offices into the city, rather than having district resources spread over the county.

He also favors a new downtown day dock and wants to ensure the city oversees and monitors services it outsources, like trash pickup.

Beer plans to continue monitoring and maintaining the city's fiscal health and said she will support the continued presence of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and encourage business growth. She will continue to advocate for better security equipment, such as cameras in commercial areas and parks, to prevent crime.