Laughlin picks up Safay endorsement; Crews reins in McCullough

Hilton Head mayoral candidate Drew Laughlin picked up an endorsement Wednesday from a former challenger and fellow town councilman, while his opponent, Tom Crews, chastised another former candidate who has endorsed him.

Laughlin and Crews meet in a runoff Tuesday after emerging from a field of seven candidates in the non-partisan general election Nov. 2.

Councilman John Safay, who was among those candidates, on Wednesday endorsed Laughlin, despite saying earlier he would not endorse either candidate. "We have not always agreed on many issues, but on balance I'm absolutely certain he is the better of the two candidates to lead the island over the next four years," said Safay, whose council term ends in December. "He has a more balanced view of the issues. He will bring progressive innovation to the island, while preserving the core values we all cherish that make Hilton Head unique."

Meanwhile, Crews sent an e-mail to supporters Wednesday chastising Ed McCullough - who endorsed Crews on Monday - for having "crossed a line" by criticizing Laughlin in a letter for voting last week in favor of a proposed franchise agreement for island-wide residential waste and recycling collection.

"While I have criticized our Town Council for sleeping at the wheel collectively, I do not find it acceptable to try to single out my opponent," Crews wrote. "I am asking you, even the seasoned and passionate political activists, to not engage in this personality bashing."

McCullough said Laughlin's vote was "egregiously disingenuous."

"Drew knew it was a hot-button issue, and he said in forums and debates he had problems with the way it was written," McCullough said Wednesday. "There's nothing personal. I like Drew. That doesn't mean I shouldn't speak forthrightly when we disagree on the issues."

McCullough said the proposal will lead to burdensome cost increases for condominium regimes and harm local haulers who will lose residential customers.

Laughlin said using a franchise hauler will lower costs for most residents, increase recycling rates, improve air quality and reduce road wear and tear. Those benefits outweighed the concerns, he said.

Both Laughlin and Crews vowed to continue to keep their campaigns positive.

"In terms of what I have heard Tom Crews say, I think he's done the same thing I have done, which is to run a positive campaign telling people why they should vote for us and not why they should vote against the opponent," Laughlin said. "We both have more respect for the voters of Hilton Head ... . I appreciate him sending something out disavowing (McCullough's remarks.) There will certainly be none of that coming out of my camp, but you never know what one's supporters will do."