As the legislative session kicks off next week, rumblings around the low country have reached a fever pitch around a well-known Republican representative from Beaufort County who may decide he wants to avoid the vetting and scrutiny inherent with an upcoming election.
Representative Bill Herbkersman has enjoyed representing the citizens of House District 118 for 20 years; however, recent exchanges between Hilton Head Island resident Skip Hoagland, Herbkersman, and other Republican lawmakers identified a few metaphorical skeletons in the closet.
Hoagland, a dogged and abrasive, self-proclaimed government watchdog, recently shared a cache of email and text exchanges with this news outlet. Getting past the level of venom in the verbiage that seems comparable to a hormonal middle schooler, there also appeared to be concerning – and substantiated – claims.
Aside from the obvious bad blood between the two, a few words particularly caught our attention: rapist, threaten, criminal, charges, etc. According to Hoagland, he confronted the representative regarding his allegedly taking a lady to his marital home in February 2020.
The incident apparently occurred after the unnamed woman had been overserved at a Bluffton bar and was subsequently driven by Herbkersman in a Porsche to a residence on Browns Bluff Road in Bluffton. All she apparently knew at the time was that his name was Bill and that he was a legislator.
As text messages between the woman and another individual show, she briefly confused the man with whom she had spent the evening with another Beaufort representative as she tried to investigate details about the man. She is seen referencing the address where the Uber picked her up with property tax records and other online data to help determine Herbkersman’s identity. The last text depicts a screenshot with her neighbor where she describes having been impaired and feeling ill the next day.
Obviously ruffled by the accusations, Herbkersman demanded an apology inside the same forum where Hoagland’s claims were initially launched; and Hoagland, true to form, adamantly refused. Per Hoagland, Representative Weston Newton and Senator Tom Davis were also in the group messages. As Hoagland stood firm, it appears that Herbkersman escalated matters, even threatening to leverage law enforcement to arrest Hoagland for airing his dirty laundry.
Herbkersman’s low country region has been synonymous in recent years with the Murdaugh family who has largely controlled when, and IF, the law was enforced for much of the past century. Sheriff PJ Tanner and Solicitor Duffie Stone were installed under the Murdaugh reign and with the full blessing of the “family.” Tanner had even served on the committee of a select few with former Governor Haley and her spouse to appoint Chief Mark Keel at SLED.
Since many insiders report that Tanner and Stone are cut from the same Murdaugh “cloth,” a threat of arrest for disclosing indiscretions of a politically connected lawmaker is not outside of the realm of possibilities in the low country’s unique and often vacillating system of justice.
The text messages and emails provided by Hoagland to this outlet have been truncated with certain verbiage highlighted for ease of reference, but not otherwise modified.
Since 2018, Herbkersman has introduced one bill that became law; this specified the limit of a certain fish (cobia) that could be caught in or around SC waters. Though the fish are presumably pleased with his advocacy, voters of House District 118 seem to think his representation has become a bit anemic, particularly since Representative Herbkersman has not lived within the district he represents for quite some time.
The shaded area on the map of District 120 is represented by Representative Weston Newton, but both lawmakers live within a stone’s throw of each other (shown in the aerial view photo indicated with purple and red Xs).
According to Beaufort County tax records, Herbkersman purchased the property at 110 Myrtle Island Road for $2,150,000 on November 19, 2021; the 6,350 square foot complex boasts a pool, pier, spa, and 3 dwelling units. The fact that Herbkersman does not reside in the district he represents should preclude him from serving – and certainly from being a candidate in this fall.
It seems remarkable that Representative Weston Newton, a veteran attorney who chairs the Judiciary Committee and would be especially well-versed in the legal and ethical obligations of the office, would choose to ignore his neighbor’s longstanding disingenuous, if not fraudulent, approach to such a prestigious office. Similarly remarkable is that House Speaker Murrell Smith has allowed the lawmaker who indicated a post office box as his “home address” to avoid any accountability in this regard.
So here lies another example of the ‘good old boys’ doing their thing, but perhaps simplifying the term to ‘old boys’ could be more fitting. And these reports certainly beg the question, what else might they be hiding for each other?