Two new contenders vie for spots on local ballots in November

Two local contenders are making a late effort to collect enough voters' signatures to get their names on the November ballot.

Beaufort resident Alice Howard wants to challenge Democratic incumbent Laura Von Harten for her seat representing the city of Beaufort and Port Royal on County Council.

And former deputy county treasurer Herschel Evans wants to challenge current deputy treasurer Maria Walls, a Republican who so far has run unopposed for the treasurer's seat.

To get on the ballot, each must submit petitions to the county elections office by noon July 15, with signatures from 5 percent of the registered voters in the area they wish to represent.

Howard will need the signatures of at least 402 registered voters in County Council District 4. Because the treasurer position is a countywide office, Evans will need the signatures of at least 5,383 of the county's more than 107,600 registered voters.

For the past two weeks, friends and supporters of the prospective candidates have talked with voters around Beaufort, Port Royal and the county to collect signatures, Howard and Evans said.

Although neither knew last week how many signatures have been gathered, Howard estimated on Friday she has collected as many as 300. A group of Evans' friends and supporters will meet in a few days to count signatures, said Sheila Munson, a friend and former employee of Evans'.

Howard hopes to inject fresh perspective into the council, noting that most of its members have served three terms or longer. During 25 years with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Howard served as the base's environmental director and community liaison director. She has also served on the city of Beaufort's Zoning Board of Appeals and Metropolitan Planning Commission.

"I have known (Von Harten) since I've been here in Beaufort, and it's more about what I would like to do," Howard said. "I'm not running against her; I'm running because I want to serve."

If placed on the ballot, Howard also would face Independence Party candidate Brian MacDermant in November.

Evans is campaigning on his 25 years of experience with the county treasurer's office. Now working with the state Department of Revenue, Evans left the office in 2011 when current treasurer Doug Henderson took office and hired new staff, including Wall.

Henderson announced this spring he will retire when his term ends next summer.

Coincidentally, Henderson was voted into office in 2010 as a petition candidate. He defeated Joy Logan, who had held the office for 20 years and had not faced a primary or general-election opponent since the 1990 GOP primary.

Evans was a deputy under Logan, whose tenure ended in tumult. A state investigation revealed an employee had embezzled more than $210,000 from the office in 2007 and 2008.

Evans was not implicated, and the lifelong Beaufort resident hopes to move past that incident. He said he is eager to see if he has enough support to make the ballot.

"Right now, I'm just waiting to see if this horse gets legs so he can run," Evans said.

He described himself as a conservative-leaning independent and said he will continue his push for signatures until the mid-July deadline.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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