Excitement in Chatham County

Chatham County voters thought that the entire focus of this primary season was going to be on the race to replace Jack Kingston as First District Congressman. However they have been surprised that what is normally a lackluster boring run for Savannah Chatham County Public School System President has turned into a political slugfest stealing the headlines and most of the voters attention. While five candidates are running, the race is between veteran Republican Political operative David Simons, and educator and college professor Jolene Byrne, a political unknown at the beginning of the race. Not so much today.

Simons announced with a cast of supporters including most of the state and local elected officials and clients he works for, and a broad assumption that as the “Republican” candidate in a non-partisan race, he would walk in on the coattails of Jack Kingston’s race for Senate and Buddy Carter’s race for Congress (Simons is a consultant for Carter’s Campaign and was the subject of a charge by opponent Bob Johnson). Boasting a war chest that exceeded the assets of the other four candidates combined, Simons assumed that the race was his and anticipated endorsement by the Chamber of Commerce.

Simon’s troubles began almost immediately with his refusal to participate in the first two candidate debates. At the second debate large “chicken” signs appeared as well a signs featuring a mug shot from when Simons was arrested for fighting with an automatic door at the Courthouse and an ensuing altercation with the security guard.  Simons appeared at the League of Women Voter’s debate and verbally accosted two audience questioners, refusing to answer questions about his contracts representing large construction companies, and his position on evening meetings for the School Board. It was at this debate that Simon’s said that his two children are in private school and that he would not discuss that issue.

While Simons touted his military service, a no taxes pledge, and his business acumen, the latter has served to be a sea anchor around the neck of his campaign. Clint Murphy has filed two separate Ethics Complaints alleging he was in violation of Georgia Ethics law that requires registration as a lobbyist in order to represent folks wanting to do business with governments. Cited was lobbying activity with the white members of the School Board as recently as April, 2014. A separate complaint was filed with similar allegations over lobbying the Chatham County Commission on behalf of a Texas firm seeking incentives to build a hotel. The initial complaint also generated a law suit from a minority contractor.

His opponent, Jolene Byrne, an unknown at the beginning of the campaign, has amassed diverse support from both staunchly conservative Republicans and strong Democrats, veteran educators, business leaders, and the public. Her campaign has been guided by volunteers and has incorporated social media, YouTube, and very targeted media. Byrne, whose son attends public school, has had a consistent message strong on detail and consistency, whereas in the last debate, Simons repeatedly asserted that “I am not an educator” and touted his educational experience in terms of the School Board members whose campaigns he managed.

While Simons and his inner core assumed the Chamber endorsement, it has not materialized, and many of his supporters have disappeared in the mist. The Savannah Morning News, while not endorsing any candidate, essentially endorsed Byrne as the best candidate.

Far from being lackluster, this contest has dominated the political scene, driving the Congressional races from front page of the newspaper. And in the process Byrne has defied the political assumptions and emerged as the front runner in this important race to head the School System in Savannah Chatham County.


  1. Ellynn says:

    And it only took me 3 weeks of pointing this out in the comment sections for it to be a page 1 story…

    I’ve done my job well…

  2. Bull Moose says:

    Eric the Younger you’d be wise to check your facts – common cause didn’t file anything – I (Clint Murphy) did. I am a Board Member of Common Cause Georgia, but the ethics complaints have been filed under my name and not that of Common Cause.

  3. SlimeOn says:

    It has been said that the ‘truth shall set you free’ and, sometimes it’s just embarrassing.

  4. polpol says:

    Seems like there is another correction to be made……Savannah Chamber PAC in fact did give Simons $2,000……seems like they just wanted to keep it a secret……wonder where the 24 hour report of a campaign contribution in excess of $1,000 is????

  5. SlimeOn says:

    Actually it was $2,500 so the Chamber really does see the School Board as a subsidiary of the Chamber run by a Chamber board member. The Chamber needs to clean house and bring in some fresh new blood.

  6. polpol says:

    Here is the release from the Chamber that was issued around 4 PM on Sunday afternoon:

    DAVE SIMONS GETS SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT ENDORSEMENT…The Savannah Area Business Political Action Committee Announces Endorsement for 2014 School Board President Primary Election…
    After completing a defined review process including questionnaires and in-person candidate interviews with the Savannah Area Business Political Action Committee (SABPAC) board of directors, the SABPAC has chosen to endorse David Simons in the non-partisan primary for President of the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) board. The SABPAC will donate $2,500 to Simons’ primary election campaign.

    The contributing factors for selecting Simons for endorsement were 1) Simons’ business, leadership, and military background, 2) his understanding of the business community’s workforce development needs, 3) his commitment to fiscal responsibility and, 4) Simons’ understanding of the roles between SCCPSS board members as responsible for developing and evaluating policy while SCCPSS staff are accountable for implementing strategy and tactics.

    The Savannah Area Business Political Action Committee, Inc. is a group of area business leaders who collectively support pro-business candidates in local elections. The SABPAC is made up of businesses that represent all areas of the economy throughout Savannah. The SABPAC is registered as a separate, Georgia nonprofit organization.

    Important Note: The SABPAC is funded by contributions from individuals and businesses throughout the region. The SABPAC was incorporated in 2001 and is registered with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

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