Challenger Eddie DeLoach, a former Chatham County Commissioner, defeated Savannah’s incumbent mayor Edna Jackson 53 percent to 47 percent in Tuesday’s runoff. Remarkably, there were more voters in the runoff election than in the general election, and the energy was definitely with the challengers.
In the race for an open alderman at-large seat, retired banker Brian Foster defeated activist and longshorewoman Alicia Blakely 52.8 percent to 47.2 percent.
In the runoff for the 2nd district aldermanic seat, retired photographer and community activist Bill Durrence soundly defeated incumbent Mary Osborne 61.6 percent to 38.4 percent.
The campaign season had turned increasingly ugly and racially polarized in recent weeks — seriously, there were more incidents and controversies than I can even list — and in the final days it seemed like the three black candidates (Jackson, Blakely, and Osborne) were pinning their hopes on a solid black turnout in this majority black city. But turnout surged in some largely white neighborhoods, and Savannah city council has flipped from a 6-3 black majority to a 5-4 white majority.
In 1995, Floyd Adams was elected Savannah’s first black mayor, and he was reelected four years later with no opposition. Otis Johnson barely won the mayor’s race in 2003, but he was handily reelected in 2007 with nearly 70 percent of the vote. Jackson breezed into her first term with 57 percent of the vote in 2011.
But Jackson’s reelection campaign was weighed down from the beginning by growing concerns about crime, about police corruption (former chief Willie Lovett is in prison), about the currently understaffed police force, and about a host of other issues, including remarkable mismanagement of property purchases. Despite the creeping sense among many of us that Jackson was at the helm of a sinking ship, the mayor dismissively defended the work of City Manager Stephanie Cutter and offered little hope that the next four years would be any better than the last four. Read more