Voters head to polls today for Beaufort City Council election

Getting out the vote could be a challenge for candidates in today's special election to fill a vacant Beaufort City Council seat.

Larry Holman, George O'Kelley and Ron Petit will vie to fill the rest of the term of Gary Fordham, who died in April.

"Historically there's a low turnout in special elections," O'Kelley said. "We've also got the Water Festival and the heat to compete with. ... But I've been encouraged by the number of people who were saying they were going to get out and vote." O'Kelley and Petit spent the final days leading up to Election Day speaking with residents and making their final appeal to voters, they said.

"I have been knocking on doors now for about two weeks," Petit said. "Every opportunity that I get, I've been out talking with people."

Holman, 64, declined to comment for this article. He is president of the Beaufort Black Chamber of Commerce. He ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for one of two at-large seats, which were won by incumbents Mike Sutton and Donnie Beer.

O'Kelley, 69, is a Beaufort attorney who was first elected to the council in the late 1970s but resigned to become a municipal judge.

He held that post from 1996 until his resignation in 2003, after an investigation revealed he had reduced 55 parking tickets, including 16 issued to his wife, to "warnings." O'Kelley was reprimanded by the state Supreme Court in September 2004, less than two months before he was elected to a seat on the Beaufort City Council. During that term, he served as mayor pro tempore and briefly was acting mayor after Mayor Bill Rauch resigned in July 2008. O'Kelley did not seek re-election later that year.

Petit, 70, is a retired member of the Air Force and federal civil service employee. He serves on the Beaufort County Planning Commission and is a member of the Rotary Club of the Lowcountry and the Lady's Island Business Professionals Association. He ran unsuccessfully against O'Kelley and four others for two at-large City Council seats in 2004.

The winner of today's election will serve the remainder of Fordham's term, which expires in 2012.

Fordham died in April following a long battle with multiple sclerosis.

Related content

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  2. Three vie to succeed Fordham on Beaufort City Council, June 4, 2011