Live blog of the 2015 Savannah runoff election

bill dawers December 1, 20159:51 pm

One big story tonight: turnout.

In the general election last month, there were 22,275 voters in the mayoral race. In the 2011 runoff, there were 19,702.

Tonight, there were 23,306 votes cast for mayor — an increase of over 1,000 from the general election (yes, voters can cast a ballot in the runoff even if they skipped the general). 

Voters began getting angrier and angrier about crime in summer 2014, as the number of violent crimes seemed to increase and former chief Lovett faced criminal charges. The Jackson-Cutter team brought on the highly praised Jack Lumpkin as chief, but the city-counter police merger continued to deteriorate and violent crime continued to increase, dangerously randomly.

Concerns about crime drove many of those folks to the polls tonight, but I’ll stand by the statement that a host of other issues came into play — we just seemed to be watching a city administration in gridlock, unable to move anything forward or to completion. The only things that got done seemed like bad ideas — the recent fairgrounds purchase agreement, the destruction of Meldrim Row, the demolition of a historic pharmacy, the departure of the Sand Gnats, etc. 


bill dawers December 1, 20159:41 pm

Fresh numbers with absentee ballots coming in. DeLoach and Foster did very well in advance voting, and they more than held their own with absentee voting as well.

bill dawers December 1, 20159:39 pm

I hope that Eddie DeLoach will reach out right away to Jackson and try to put the worst of the campaign rhetoric behind them.

With four new members of city council — DeLoach, Durrence, Foster, and Julian Miller (who unseated the D4 incumbent Mary Ellen Sprague in the general election) — there will be a lot on everyone’s plate when the new council takes control in January.

Let’s hope for an orderly transition.

Early on 2016, look for a full review of the work of the city manager. 

bill dawers December 1, 20159:34 pm

From Mayor Jackson’s campaign Facebook page:

“…congratulations to Eddie and his team, I hope they will not forget about the young people. It is about our young people. With that I have to say thank you. Tony, Estella and Van will have to carry the load and continue the good work. This is my last campaign but I will not stop working for the people. God continue to bless each of you.” – Mayor Edna Jackson

bill dawers December 1, 20159:29 pm

bill dawers December 1, 20159:27 pm

What could Mayor Edna Jackson have done to change tonight’s outcome. If she had kept closer tabs on the deteriorating police staffing and police merger, if she had recognized the many failings of the Cutter administration, if she had taken more actions to shore up her base over the past few years — if she had done any of those things, she might have been reelected tonight.

About 1000 people who voted for mayor did not vote in the at-large race, but it’s telling that a political unknown like Blakely got 47.1 percent of the vote in that race while Jackson got on 46.5 percent in the mayoral race.

Again, we are waiting for absentee ballots to be counted, which might skew slightly toward Jackson and Blakely, but those will not be anywhere near enough to make up these margins. 

And a note on the Durrence win: he just took 63.6 percent in a district that is over 50 percent black and only about 40 percent white. 

bill dawers December 1, 20159:22 pm

We are still waiting on absentee ballots, but here are the percentages:

DeLoach 53.49 percent vs. Jackson 46.51 percent

Foster 52.94 percent vs. Blakely 47.06 percent

Durrence 63.58 percent vs. Osborne 36.42 percent

bill dawers December 1, 20159:16 pm

It looks like we might just be waiting on the absentee by mail ballots to be counted. 

Tonight was a sea change in Savannah politics. This is as forceful a repudiation of the current city administration — especially its handling of crime — as could be imagined. 
bill dawers December 1, 20159:13 pm

Well I was predicting that the mayoral race winner might finish with less than 11,000 votes, and DeLoach has 11,901.

Those big jumps for DeLoach and Foster at the end were from precincts like First Pres in Ardsley, where DeLoach beat Jackson 1,323 to 147. Talk about a discontented electorate. 

bill dawers December 1, 20159:09 pm

Durrence has beaten Osborne almost 2 to 1. Foster 1,500 votes + ahead of Blakely. 

bill dawers December 1, 20159:08 pm

Eddie DeLoach might have just been elected Mayor. Hard to see how Jackson comes back. Currently 11,901 to 10,090

bill dawers December 1, 20159:06 pm

Foster – 8,719

Blakely – 8,006
bill dawers December 1, 20159:04 pm

DeLoach – 9,380

Jackson – 8,037
bill dawers December 1, 20158:58 pm

Bill Durrence is headed to victory in D2.

He has so far outpolled Osborne 144 to 4 at the Old Courthouse, 422 to 39 at Rose of Sharon. He’s up 2 to 1 with well over half the vote counted. 

bill dawers December 1, 20158:56 pm

DeLoach – 7,250

Jackson – 6,431
Blakely – 6,426

Foster – 6,703

bill dawers December 1, 20158:50 pm

So is Foster’s membership in the Oglethorpe Club, which apparently has no black members, working against him? Are people just suspicious of his ties to the banking industry, the “establishment”, etc. 

It’s just really interesting that Foster is underperforming DeLoach so far. 

bill dawers December 1, 20158:46 pm

33 of 52 precincts partially reporting so far. We’ve got about half the vote in. 

bill dawers December 1, 20158:43 pm

Just Fyi, there are some big numbers out there for DeLoach in precincts that haven’t reported at all yet. 

bill dawers December 1, 20158:36 pm

Still no votes in from key Westside precincts or from several downtown precincts out through Ardsley.

So look for big swings both ways as those ballots are counted or downloaded or whatever happens. 

bill dawers December 1, 20158:35 pm

Ok gang, I’m starting to have some drag here on the blog. If you have this window open, please do not refresh. Updates will come to you automatically.

Blakely – 5,246
Foster – 4,843 
bill dawers December 1, 20158:34 pm

DeLoach – 5,204

Jackson – 5,290
A little less than half the vote counted. 

bill dawers December 1, 20158:31 pm

Looking at where the votes are coming from — about 35 percent of the total vote has been counted — things are looking pretty promising for DeLoach, I think. 

bill dawers December 1, 20158:29 pm

DeLoach – 4,179

Jackson – 4,073
Blakely – 4,017

Foster – 3,921
So I have perhaps wrongly assumed that Foster would outperform DeLoach and that Jackson would outperform Blakely.
Durrence – 417

Osborne – 265

bill dawers December 1, 20158:27 pm

No new numbers have been posted yet. Just 7 of 52 precincts partially reporting.

bill dawers December 1, 20158:18 pm

Btw, there so far have been about 100 fewer votes in the at-large race as in the mayor race. It might be that a lot of voters either didn’t feel like they knew enough about Foster and Blakely to vote in that race — or maybe they were unhappy with their choices.

That’s a trend to watch. 

bill dawers December 1, 20158:15 pm

The votes so far are coming in primarily from the western and southern portions of the city. 

DeLoach – 1,262 votes
Jackson – 1,174 votes
Foster – 1,180 votes
Blakcely 1,144 

bill dawers December 1, 20158:13 pm

In fact in the first results, Osborne has 2 votes, Durrence has 1. Seriously. 

bill dawers December 1, 20158:11 pm

Ok, some #s are in:

DeLoach, Foster and Osborne are ahead as first numbers come in, but way too early to say anything of substance. 

bill dawers December 1, 20158:02 pm

To recap a point that I made in my City Talk column in the SMN on Sunday: the winner of the mayoral race tonight will have the support of about 10 percent of the over-18 population of the city.

If we want more people to be engaged in voting in the city — and therefore being more invested in policy decisions — we should have our city elections at the same time as the Chatham County elections, which coincide with presidential years. 
You’ll see people reporting that turnout is higher this year than in 2011, but that’s sort of an illusion because a large number of voters have been dropped from the rolls or somehow moved to “inactive” status so they aren’t being included when we calculate turnout.
The truth is that we’ve so far seen about the same number of voters in 2015 as we saw in 2011. 
bill dawers December 1, 20157:54 pm

In the spirit of the night, I’m listening to the Athens-based band Family And Friends, who will play at The Jinx on Friday night. 

A word on decorum:

Can we quit calling all these candidates by their first names, as if they are all actually friends of ours? We know that’s not true. I think the casualness and false familiarity of using first names in our political discourse leads to some of the dismissive tone.

Also, can we agree to start calling out race-baiting? Both mayoral candidates tried at times to remain above the fray, but at times they could have done more. 

Let’s talk policy. Let’s quit posting ugly memes of the sitting mayor, quit referring to white challengers as “our enemies” and “Downtown Candidates,” etc. etc. 

bill dawers December 1, 20157:42 pm

In theory, we could start seeing returns a little sooner tonight since there are so few races in play, but we could still be an hour from knowing anything significant at all. 

It will be interesting to take note in the early returns how well Alicia Blakely is doing in the at-large runoff compared to Jackson in the mayoral race.

As I have said before, I found Blakely to be a strong candidate, but I think she needed a lot of campaign help in recent weeks. A weak social media campaign — her Facebook page has not been updated since October sometime — and then an inability to attend a debate held downtown simply prevented many of us from getting a chance to consider her candidacy more fully. 

By contrast, Brian Foster’s well-funded campaign has been everywhere — TV, flyers, Facebook, the web. 

Foster has talked a lot of pragmatic, commonsense solutions, but his campaign was damaged by that vote-for-all-incumbents flyer that was a joint collaboration of the Foster-Jackson campaigns, but he racked up endorsements from influential leaders — both black and white, Democratic and Republican — and took 37 percent in the crowded 6-person field in the general election. 

Btw, white candidates got 63 percent of the vote in that at-large general election race. Some of Blakely’s supporters are banking on the idea that black voters will all want a black person in that seat, but there seems to be a broad feeling out there that if we are going to have two at-large seats elected citywide, we should have a black representative in one of them and a white representative in the other. 

bill dawers December 1, 20157:26 pm

You can follow the election results at SavannahNow:
and at the Board of Elections:

bill dawers December 1, 20157:18 pm

Personal note: my cats do not understand the focus required by live blogging. Just saying’.

A few thought on the D2 runoff:

Bill Durrence took 44 percent of the vote in the general election to Mary Osborne’s 29 percent. Detric Leggett took third with 23 percent and has endorsed Durrence. Andree Patterson took only 3.5 percent, but I would assume that Durrence would get the majority of her votes. 

So, just from the numbers, Durrence should have the race in the extensively redrawn district — the 2010 Census data pushed the boundaries west significantly. It’s unclear to me that Osborne ever understood the importance of reaching out to new voters in the district (like me). I received literally no contacts from the Osborne campaign — just that lame flyer paid for by the Jackson and Foster campaigns supporting her before the general election. As far as I know, Osborne has no website or Facebook page. 

Durrence by contrast has been sending out mailers, going door to door in some areas, and has a kick-ass website that’s heavy on policy. Plus a quality Facebook page. 

As the campaign was winding down, Osborne’s entire strategy seemed to be to appeal to her base voters on the Eastside (where none of us new D2 residents even live) and label Durrence a “Downtown Candidate”. I sure hope that her cynical campaigning doesn’t pay off and produce an upset.

bill dawers December 1, 20157:02 pm

In my most recent post about the election, I listed, in no particular order, some of my beefs with the current administration of Mayor Jackson and City Manager Stephanie Cutter, whom Jackson has pledged to keep in her position if Jackson is reelected:

  • A pattern of inaction that has left the police merger near death
  • Allowing the police department to become so poorly staffed
  • Taking so long to institute raises for police officers
  • Demolition of Meldrim Row
  • One bad decision after another on Waters Avenue
  • The mess of the Cultural Arts Center — we are about to spend over $20 million on a new facility that won’t even have a true theater
  • Demolition of a historic pharmacy on MLK
  • A stunning lack of vision about the future possibilities for the current arena site
  • The nonexistent food truck ordinance
  • The major missteps in the alcohol ordinance rewrite, which has been going on for almost 3 years
  • Failure to move forward with a zoning overhaul
  • Failure to address our unworkable sound ordinance
  • Lack of vision for poverty reduction
  • Inability to address (or even understand, as far as I can tell) problems of gentrification
  • The failure to sell or utilize a key block of Hall Street
  • Lack of movement on issues related to pedestrianism/biking/traffic calming
bill dawers December 1, 20156:58 pm

It’s worth tonight keeping in mind the last two times we had an incumbent mayor running for reelection. 

In 1999, Floyd Adams was unopposed in his bid for a second term. Yes, UNOPPOSED.

In 2007, Otis Johnson faced spirited opposition from a fairly large field, but he took almost 70 percent of the vote in the general election. 70 PERCENT.

So even if Jackson survives tonight, she goes into a second term in a very weak political position, and she is likely to have three new council members who are almost certain to take tougher stances against current city policies than the folks who hold those seats now. 

bill dawers December 1, 20156:51 pm

My predictions for tonight:

Durrence over Osborne for District 2 council seat, 56-44.

Foster over Blakely for Alderman At-Large, 54-46.

Jackson over DeLoach for Mayor, 50.4-49.6.

I don’t have any inside knowledge on any this and know of no credible polls. I know a lot of people are assuming DeLoach will pick up Murray Silver’s voters — he took 12 percent in the general election — but it’s unclear to me if that will be enough to over come the 2 point edge that Jackson had in the general election. 

bill dawers December 1, 20156:47 pm

Before we get too far into this, have you seen the 5 names still in the running for our college league team next year at Grayson? 

Savannah Anchors
Savannah Bananas 
Savannah Party Animals 
Savannah Ports 
Savannah Seagulls

Um, seriously? After 100s of recommendations, those are our choices?

Obviously, Savannah Bananas is the only acceptable one. 
bill dawers December 1, 20156:45 pm

As some of you may know, Georgia Public Broadcasting has a tweet up at Savannah Coffee Roasters right now, and you can join the conversation on twitter at the hashtag #runoff15sav.  

bill dawers December 1, 20156:42 pm

So fun times, huh?

The runoff races — especially the race for mayor between incumbent Edna Jackson and challenger Eddie DeLoach — have become so racially polarized that it’s simply depressing. 

Neither Jackson nor DeLoach are trying to destroy Savannah. Please get your heads around that. By late tonight, one of them will be our mayor for the next four years, so we need to be ready to work together where possible, and to challenge where we feel like we have to. But all of this ugly imagery that many have been posting online — all that needs to end. 

The polls are open for another 20 minutes, and we probably won’t have any particular news until about 8:30 p.m., so I’ll be posting some thoughts and links as the spirit moves me until then. 

bill dawers December 1, 20156:36 pm

Ok, everyone, I’m going to be live blogging tonight as the returns come in for the 2015 runoff election for three posts here in Savannah — Mayor, Alderman At-Large Post 2, and District 2 Alderman.

If you want to follow here, just keep the window open, and new posts will appear as I make them.

In November, I started getting so much traffic that the whole blog dragged, so I apologize in advance if things slow down.