Edna Jackson elected Savannah’s new mayor; Tom Bordeaux takes at-large council seat

If you want some more data on how the reporting unfolded over about an hour on Tuesday evening, see my live blog.

Tonight went pretty much as I suspected.

21,749 Savannahians voted in the mayor race in November. 19,466 voted today — about a 10.5% decline in the number of voters. Total turnout will be about 30% of the total number of registered voters.

That’s pretty lousy turnout, but far better than some of the grim — and ill-informed — predictions from earlier in the day.

With the endorsement of many members of the Savannah establishment — the Savannah Morning News, former state senator and Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Johnson, the political action committee most closely linked to the local Chamber of Commerce, and a wide array of other individuals and groups — this was Edna Jackson’s race to lose. She ran a consistently upbeat campaign, and I think in recent weeks she sent various rhetorical signals that she understood that divisive issues over the past year or so, mostly related to the racially charged city manager search, had alienated many voters.

Jeff Felser made up some ground on Jackson since the general election; he shrunk her margin over him by about 500 votes. He ran an upbeat campaign over the last month too, with fewer barbs than he used in the run-up to the general election.

Jeff successfully energized a host of younger voters who haven’t traditionally gotten excited about Savannah’s municipal elections. Let’s hope that Jeff and his backers will now be more engaged in local politics, and will hold Edna and the new council to their pledges for greater transparency and, especially, for an environment that is friendlier to small businesses.

Here are the vote totals (unofficial):

Former state lawmaker Tom Bordeaux also won easily, as you can see. He had a running start with his name recognition and respect among Savannah’s overwhelmingly Democratic electorate. I’m actually surprised that Young did as well as he did, but it’s worth noting that a couple of white candidates who were defeated in November actively urged their social media contacts to vote for Young.

So a black candidate defeated a white candidate by 13 percentage points in the mayoral race; a white candidate defeated a black candidate by almost 14 percentage points in the aldermanic race. So can we ease up on the whites-vote-for-whites-and-blacks-vote-for-blacks rhetoric? While there’s little doubt that most voters opted for a candidate of their own race, the number of voters who crossed racial lines is obviously significant. That’s nothing new in Savannah city elections, but you wouldn’t know it to listen to some of the racially polarizing rhetoric.

A final note: Savannah has around 135,000 people. Savannah’s new mayor Edna Jackson was elected with the support of 11,000 voters. That’s about 8% of the citizenry.

Teambuilding and humility are obviously in order.