Splitting tickets in Chatham County

Over the last couple of national election cycles, Chatham County (Savannah, etc.) has trended increasingly Democratic.

In 2004, John Kerry won the county by 146 votes — he got 49.78 percent of the vote, besting George Bush’s 49.62 percent.

In 2008, McCain got more votes than Bush got in 2008, but Obama defeated him soundly in Chatham County — 56.8 percent to 42.4 percent.

The city of Savannah elects its leaders in odd years (2007, 2011, etc.), but the county government and the courts are on the same cycle as the national races.

While it seems certain that Barack Obama’s big win in 2008 helped Democrats, consider the following Chatham County winners and their percents of the vote:

  • Sheriff Al St. Lawrence – R – 50.9%
  • County Commission Chair Pete Liakakis – D – 68.0%
  • District Attorney Larry Chisolm – D – 54.3%

All three of those races look to be competitive this year. St. Lawrence is being challenged by McArthur Holmes (D). Liakakis couldn’t run for a third term,  so Eddie DeLoach (R) and Al Scott (D) are vying for the open chairman’s seat.

And in the most-watched local race, incumbent DA Larry Chisolm is being challenged by Meg Daly Heap (R).

There’s also a race for Clerk of Superior Court between incumbent Republican Daniel W. Massey and Democratic challenger Tawana Garrett.  Massey was unopposed in 2008 and the folks I know in the legal community seem very supportive of his re-election.

All four Republicans in these races are white; all four Democrats black.

While there will certainly be some voters who will vote strictly on party or racial lines, thousands of other local residents are going to split their tickets, as evidenced by those vote totals in 2008.

It seems that many assumed that turnout would be much lower — especially among Democrats — than in 2008. But I’m guessing that those who voted for Obama in 2008 are going to turn out in large numbers again, despite the certainty of Romney winning Georgia.

Before Tuesday, I’ll try to say a bit about the key Chatham County races.


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