Elections

Fewer Huffman supporters turn out for Bluffton runoff, cost incumbent his seat

Moderator Larry Hughes, second from right, listens as Bluffton Town Council candidates, from left, Ted Huffman, Harry Lutz and Dan Wood speak during a candidate forum at Hampton Hall on Nov. 14 leading up to a runoff election Nov. 17. Lutz and Wood won the two open seats.
Moderator Larry Hughes, second from right, listens as Bluffton Town Council candidates, from left, Ted Huffman, Harry Lutz and Dan Wood speak during a candidate forum at Hampton Hall on Nov. 14 leading up to a runoff election Nov. 17. Lutz and Wood won the two open seats. jkarr@islandpacket.com

Did Bluffton mayor Lisa Sulka's re-election earlier this month cost incumbent town councilman Ted Huffman a victory in the council runoff election Tuesday?

Some, including Huffman himself, think that is certainly possible.

Many of the same voters who supported Sulka also supported Huffman in the general election, Huffman said Thursday.

And "there's no doubt" that once Sulka won on Nov. 3, some of those supporters stayed home for the runoff, he said.

Greater Bluffton Republican Club president Joe Iaco, who follows town politics closely, agreed.

"(Sulka) is very popular and ginned up a lot of turnout (during the general election)," he said Thursday. "It was harder for (Huffman) to get those voters back out the second time."

While Sulka said she doesn't know whether her election had any impact on turnout from Huffman supporters, data from the Beaufort County Board of Elections seems to support this theory.

While Dan Wood and Harry Lutz -- the two winners of the runoff -- maintained or gained support from the general to the runoff election, Huffman lost votes.

Huffman received 728 votes in the general election, but only 483 in the runoff.

Huffman is an Old Town resident and business owner, but "Old Town just didn't show up for me" in the runoff, he said.

In voting precinct 1A, which makes up a large portion of Old Town, Huffman lost 25 votes between the general and runoff election.

Lutz picked up 41 votes in the precinct.

"I feel like my girlfriend cheated on me," Huffman said. "...But this isn't sour grapes. It's the reality of the numbers."

Huffman lost a total of 245 votes between the town's 16 precincts from the general to the runoff.

While these might appear to be small numbers, in an election with a low turnout they can make a big difference.

The turnout in the runoff was just 9.5 percent.

While a low turnout, especially around Old Town, may have cost Huffman his council seat in the runoff, an especially high turnout in Hampton Hall kept Lutz afloat in the general and carried him to victory in the runoff.

Lutz is a Hampton Hall resident.

The turnout in precinct 4D, which makes up much of that neighborhood, was high in both the general and runoff: 33.4 percent and 27.5 percent respectively.

Iaco called that level of participation "pretty remarkable."

Hampton Hall resident Mike Balducci agreed.

"It was an incredible turnout," he said earlier this week. "...This (election) proved the strength a community can have to get behind a candidate."

Lutz won 58.6 percent of the vote in precinct 4D. That amounted to 310 of his total 624 townwide votes.

Lutz said earlier this week that his neighbors "came out big for me and I really appreciated that... (Hampton Hall is) my home and I think the people there recognize my sincerity."

While voters have the option of selecting two candidates, about 30 percent voters in precinct 4D only voted for one.

This practice, known as bullet voting, also helped swing the election, Huffman said.

"It's legal; it is what it is," Huffman said. "But it's a chicken-(expletive) way of manipulating the voters."

Bluffton Town Council runoff, Nov. 17

Unofficial

Ted Huffman (i)Harry LutzDan WoodRegistered votersBallots castTurnout
Bluffton 1A115491521,38817712.8%
Bluffton 1D221933484418.5%
Bluffton 2A0234636.5%
Bluffton 2B3410371,504432.9%
Bluffton 2C4247861,407936.6%
Bluffton 4B4340611,360826.0%
Bluffton 4C3949856109215.1%
Bluffton 5A111016544203.7%
Bluffton 2D2523411,599513.2%
Bluffton 2E261343969505.2%
Bluffton 4D973101221,29835727.5%
Bluffton 5B35825093.6%
Absentee244733068 
Failsafe20303 
Total48362472311,45910899.5%

Follow reporter Lucas High on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Lucas.

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