Weston Newton, a candidate for S.C. House District 120, greets supporter Rick Collins on Tuesday at Newton's election night party at Bluffton BBQ. Newton was running against fellow county councilman Jerry Stewart in the Republican primary for the newly drawn district.(Photo: Jay Karr The Island Packet)
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Beaufort County Council Chairman Weston Newton won the Republican primary in newly-drawn S.C. House District 120, defeating County Councilman Jerry Stewart by a wide margin Tuesday.
According to preliminary results, Newton received about 81 percent of the vote, compared to about 19 percent for Stewart.
Although nearly 100 paper ballots from Sun City had not yet been counted, the unofficial tally put Newton ahead, 1,347-295.
"I am delighted with the result of the election," Newton said Tuesday. "I am disappointed with the level of turnout, but obviously I am quite pleased with the way the election turned out, and I look forward to being the Republican nominee in the general election."
No Democrats are running in District 120, which was redrawn after the 2010 Census and includes parts of Bluffton, Okatie, Burton and a sliver of Hilton Head Island. Barring a challenge from a petition candidate in November's general election, Newton will win the seat's two-year term.
"Without party opposition, I look forward to serving the people of the Lowcountry in Columbia," he said.
Newton, 45, argued throughout the campaign that he knew the issues, the district and its residents better than Stewart. He also touted his achievements during 13 years on County Council.
He racked up endorsements from several statewide groups, including the S.C. Chamber of Commerce and Conservation Voters of S.C., and from state representatives Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, and Andy Patrick, R-Hilton Head Island.
Stewart ran largely on his background as a university professor, business executive and county councilman. Attempts to reach him for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Laura Sterling, whose name still appeared on official ballots Tuesday, was disqualified last week because she was late filing a financial disclosure form.
Turnout figures for District 120 were not immediately available, but both candidates expressed concern with the low voter participation. Across Beaufort County, just 6.5 percent of the 104,000 registered voters cast ballots in the Republican and Democratic primaries.
Nonetheless, many of Newton's supporters found their way to the polls.
"This is one of those minor elections, but I still think it requires some attention," said Hud Molloy, a Bluffton resident who voted for Newton Tuesday afternoon at Bluffton Elementary School.
"I felt pretty strongly (about Newton) from what I've read about what he's done so far," he said.
Newton cannot serve in the state legislature and county council. He said he plans to continue serving on council until he is forced to step down, at which point a special election would likely be held to choose his replacement.