MYRTLE BEACH — Incumbent Mayor John Rhodes and businesswoman Brenda Bethune will face each other in a runoff Nov. 21 to determine who leads City Hall.
Bethune, majority owner of the local Anheuser-Busch distributor, had 39 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns Tuesday night with all 13 precincts reporting.
I was shocked, in a good way,” to be the top vote-getter, Bethune said. “The amount of support I have received is overwhelming.”
Rhodes, who has served three terms in office, had 30 percent of the vote.
Candidates must get one vote more than 50 percent of the total to avoid a runoff. Ed Carey placed third with 18 percent; Mark McBride fourth with 12 percent; and C. D. Rozsa was a distant fifth with less than 1 percent.
Rhodes' voters told The Post and Courier throughout the day that they were pleased with the growth of tourism in Myrtle Beach during his 12 years in office and were happy with a tax rollback that gives owner-occupiers in the city a roughly 80 percent discount on property taxes.
"There was a lot of self-aggrandizement before John came along (and) he's probably done the best job of anybody down here," Al Jacobs, a voter in the Market Common area, said.
If he wins in two weeks, Rhodes would be the longest-serving mayor in Myrtle Beach history. Other voters simply wanted a change in leadership, and preferred Bethune who received the most votes Tuesday.
"I felt like the city government's been a little bit stagnant," said Dan Murphy, a Bethune supporter.
Rhodes said he had been anticipating a runoff and would uphold a promise he and Bethune made earlier in the campaign to avoid personal attacks.
"We will start campaigning hard," Rhodes said. "It's all just about the facts and the truth."
However, Myrtle Beach's municipal elections are notoriously fraught with misleading mailers and anonymous posts online maligning candidates. A video surfaced earlier in the race poking fun at McBride.
Bethune and Rhodes likely will turn their focus back to the Market Common area, which accounted for just over a quarter of the votes cast Tuesday night. Both candidates have the potential to make gains in the community on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. Carey won the most votes in that area on Tuesday.
However, candidates have struggled to campaign there, partly because many Market Common neighborhoods do not allow canvassing, and several homeowner associations do not allow residents to put signs in their yards.