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Cynthia Bensch has been elected to Beaufort County Council in District 7, easily defeating fellow petition candidate Dan Duryea, a fellow Republican.
With five of six precincts reporting, Bensch was ahead with 72 percent of the vote in the greater-Bluffton district, which was redrawn after the 2010 Census.
"I really have to thank God, first of all," Bensch said early Tuesday in a phone interview. "Then, I want to thank so many people for their prayers and support. I look forward to contributing and improving life for people in Beaufort County."
Bensch, 68, ran twice for County Council in the late 1990s, when she lived on Hilton Head Island, losing both times to Tom Taylor in the Republican primary. This election, she cited her private-sector experience and longtime membership in the Beaufort County Republican Party.
Attempts to reach her later Tuesday, after results were reported, were unsuccessful.
Duryea, 63, was forced to run as a petition candidate after being kicked off the ballot in the June Republican primary after he missed a filing deadline for a campaign-disclosure form. This marked his first run for public office, and he qualified for the ballot after gathering about 500 signatures from district residents.
Neither candidate raised more than $1,500 or relied on traditional door-to-door campaigning in a race that focused mainly on local issues rather than jobs, the economy or the county budget.
During the campaign, Bensch urged a quicker review of development proposals and said county landscaping and maintenance services should be privatized. She also called for a "strategic plan" to provide water and sewer service to Bluffton-area residents with aging septic tanks.
She self-funded her campaign and only recently put up signs across the district. Her main strategy in the heavily Republican district was to urge voters to vote straight-ticket Republican -- thereby choosing her.
The strategy seemed to pay off. Countywide, more than 17,000 people voted for the Republican slate. Straight-ticket voting data for District 7 was not available Tuesday.
Duryea spent his campaign reminding voters of his Republican Party affiliation and that they could not vote for him if they cast a straight-party ballot.
Duryea said late Tuesday he would not comment until results were official and all precincts had reported.
District 7 was redrawn after the 2010 Census and now includes the Bluffton-Okatie area south of U.S. 278, west of S.C. 170 and north of S.C. 46. Rose Hill, Hampton Hall, Hampton Lake and most of Buckwalter are in the district.
Bensch will be sworn in to the seat, which has a four-year term, in early January.