Strange bedfellows: Eric Johnson, one of Georgia’s leading Republicans, supports Democrat Edna Jackson for Savannah mayor

It’s hard to be sure what to make of this news reported a couple of days ago by Larry Peterson of the Savannah Morning News: Leading Republican Eric Johnson backs Democrat Edna Jackson for Savannah mayor

Click on that link for background on Johnson’s reasoning and the concerns that the former state senator and gubernatorial candidate is not supporting Ellis Cook, who is counting on support from Republicans.

Johnson’s decision is another clear indication that Edna Jackson has solidified her position as the candidate of the establishment in the nonpartisan mayoral race. Long seen as the heir apparent to Otis Johnson, Jackson has seen her public reputation muddled by the turmoil over the city manager position and a variety of other contentious issues over the past year. Without those controversies, it’s possible that none of Jackson’s opponents — Floyd Adams, Ellis Cook, James Dewberry, Jeff Felser, or Regina Thomas — would have decided to run for mayor.

I could list other well-established Savannahians who are supporting Jackson — longtime Democrats, prominent businesspeople, whites, blacks, Jews. Jackson seems to be viewed in various circles as competent and capable of presiding over the city. Those folks seem to be standing beside Jackson, who is still the presumptive frontrunner.

But is being the candidate of the establishment a plus in this election? Will the support of a Republican like Eric Johnson help Jackson?

Eric Johnson’s support might allay some concerns that Jackson would turn out to be as divisive as the current mayor has been, but it’s hard to know whether he will sway many votes. And it’s also entirely possible that Johnson’s endorsement could work against Jackson in this environment where there seems so much anger directed at incumbents.

If Adams, Felser, and Thomas — all well-known in local Democratic circles — can use Johnson’s endorsement against Jackson and pick up votes from Jackson’s base of support, we might see some particularly interesting developments in November. With a clear majority of 50%-plus required for election, we’ll likely end up in a runoff between the two top candidates, and minor shifts in voting patterns could take on outsized importance.

I’ll have more to say about the mayoral race in future posts, which will be aggregated with other posts about the November election on this page.