Mayoral runoff candidates jockey for endorsements from former foes

Drew Laughlin and Tom Crews jockeyed for endorsements from their former opponents Wednesday, less than 24 hours after voters selected them to face each other in a runoff election Nov. 16 to determine Hilton Head Island's next mayor.

Laughlin, an attorney and Town Council member, collected about 32 percent of the vote. Crews, an architect and town Planning Commissioner, had about 25 percent, according to unofficial results.

The runoff winner will replace Mayor Tom Peeples, who did not seek re-election after 15 years in office.

"I have had some communications. I don't have anything firm in hand at the moment," Crews said Wednesday morning of seeking endorsements from the five mayoral candidates who lost Tuesday's election.

Crews would not say which endorsements he hoped most to gain.

Laughlin, as well, said he plans to ask all of the candidates for their support. Laughlin got a boost before Tuesday's election by receiving Peeples' endorsement.

Laughlin and Crews vied Wednesday for support from Jim Collett, who collected the third-highest vote total. The former chairman of the town Board of Zoning and Appeals received about 16 percent of the vote.

A proponent of improving cell phone service on the island and attracting a mobile workforce, Collett shares similar views with Crews and Laughlin. All three agree on the need to modify rules to encourage redevelopment of commercial properties.

Collett said he plans to meet with the island's first mayor, 95-year-old Ben Racusin, who endorsed Collett in the general election.

Racusin "was the person whose advice I sought when I decided to run, and I have a lot of respect for him," Collett said. "I don't want to rush into a decision. It could have an influence on the outcome of the election, and I want to think it through carefully."

Racusin served one two-year term when the town was incorporated in 1983.

"I like both of them and want to sit down with Jim before I comment," Racusin said.

Town Councilman John Safay, who gave up his council seat to run for mayor, said he would not endorse a candidate.

Town Councilman Bill Ferguson, who also ran for mayor, said he will consider an endorsement, if asked.

Ferguson received about 5 percent of the vote Tuesday, behind Ed McCullough and ahead of Dave Myers, neither of whom could be reached for comment Wednesday.

"What was working in the past is not working now, if you look at the economy and all of the business that have moved away from the island," Ferguson said. "I don't want to go back to the past. ... I'm looking for new ideas from new sources."