A 'sea change' in Savannah politics as incumbent mayor gets the boot

Incumbent Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson was swept out of office Tuesday night by former Chatham County commissioner Eddie DeLoach after a campaign focused on the stew of crime and corruption that marred the coastal city's government.

A surge of turnout - The Savannah Morning News reported a tide of interest in early and advance voting - helped doom Jackson's campaign. Many prominent officials, including former Republican Rep. Jack Kingston, rallied behind DeLoach's campaign.

Local journalist Bill Dawers pronounced it a "sea change" in Savannah politics and a repudiation of the administration's handling of hot-button issues like crime and punishment.

A Savannah politico also sends word that the "sea change" also extends to city council races where white challengers defeated black incumbents.

"A city with 55 percent African-American population got so fed up with murders and crime that it showed up and voted," he wrote.

Tom Barton, the Morning News columnist, had this snippet back in August that proves prescient today:

Incumbent Savannah mayors are tough to beat. Especially if that mayor is African-American. [Floyd] Adams ran unopposed for his second term. Otis Johnson won 70 percent of the vote, besting a five-candidate field in his bid for a second term in 2007.

The conventional wisdom, since then, has been that a white person, especially one with Republican leanings, couldn’t be elected mayor. While there’s some truth to that CW — Savannah is a majority black city and city voters have tended to prefer Democrats, I don’t think it applies in this year’s elections. I think the right white candidate can win a citywide election. And timing is key.

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Republicans claimed a big victory late Tuesday in the runoff to decide who fill a Democrat-leaning Georgia Senate seat representing parts of DeKalb, Rockdale and Newton counties.

The early returns showed ex-Rockdale commissioner JaNice Van Ness, a Republican from Conyers, leading former Democratic state Rep. Tonya Anderson of Lithonia.

That means the GOP will expand the party's advantage in the Senate to beyond-supermajority status, since the seat was held by Democratic Sen. Ronald Ramsey. He was tapped by Gov. Nathan Deal in July to a judgeship.

"Tonight's victory in Senate District 43 proves that Georgia Republicans can win anywhere," declared Georgia GOP chair John Padgett.

We have a rundown of the other races right here.

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The White House is still trying to convince Gov. Nathan Deal that the plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year is a good idea.

Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff, sent a letter to Deal on Monday promising "more consistent and official communication" from the Obama administration about the resettlement process.

He wrote that he's proposed a new plan for the State Department to give governors "more regular access to refugee resettlement information."

Said the letter:

"Upon receipt of a governor's request, the State Department would compile a tailored report for the individual state submitting the request. The report would include information on refugees resettled during the prior month and fiscal year-to-date."

He also wrote that the State Department and other Obama Administration officials were prepared to discuss improving the program at the next meeting of the National Governors Association.

Deal joined more than half the nation's governors in opposing the Obama administration's policy in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris over fears it could endanger national security. Yet he also acknowledged there was little he could do to stop them from being resettled here.

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Sen. Marco Rubio is in town today for a fundraiser.

The event will be hosted by Rep. Austin Scott, his most high-profile Georgia supporter.

But don't expect to hear what he has to say - his handlers say his event will be behind closed doors.

The Democratic Party of Georgia isn't laying out the welcome mat. Rebecca DeHart, the party's executive director, blasted what she called Rubio's "deafening" response to recent mass shootings.

“Women, men, and children are dying in the streets, in the classroom, in places of worship, and in health clinics. We cannot become numb to this crisis," she said. "President Obama and our 2016 democratic candidates have laid out clear plans to make our communities safer. I’ve yet to see anyone on the Republican side have the guts to try and see these plans through.”

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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