The Best of Savannah

Most Important Local News Story

2015 Elections

In the most bitterly contested City election in a generation, Mayor Edna Jackson was unseated after one term, and a new majority was ushered onto City Council.

When you put it like that, it sounds so simple.

The backstory leading up to that result involved pent-up voter anger over crime, corruption, and mismanagement, a stew of discontent that set the table by giving each and every incumbent City Council member a challenger.

Or two. Or three.

As the homicides piled up on the streets of Savannah and a new police chief attempted to deal with the problem with limited resources, it became more and more difficult for Jackson and other incumbents—who previously had eagerly stood together as a team—to defend their record, together or apart.

As is often the case in Savannah, race was a subtext of the entire campaign. When the December runoffs materialized and lo and behold, all three matchups were of a white man vs. a black woman—including the main event of Edna Jackson vs. Eddie DeLoach—it seemed to lay bare the true, volatile dynamics of the campaign.

That said, a closer look shows that in many cases the campaign boiled down to a case-by-case referendum on each incumbent.

Mary Osborne, for example, faced frustration from constituents of all backgrounds because of the lack of economic stimulus in the 2nd District.

Incumbents Carol Bell and Van Johnson, both African-American, easily won reelection against African-American challengers.

Longtime incumbent Mary Ellen Sprague was overwhelmingly defeated by challenger Julian Miller, with race being a complete non-factor.

The most bitter and narrow contest of all was between incumbent Estella Shabazz and challenger Shaundra McKeithen, a clash between two African-American women in a heavily African-American district.

When the dust settled, a key moment came at the inauguration when Edna Jackson and former Mayor Otis Johnson joined Mayor-Elect Eddie DeLoach at the podium in the Johnny Mercer Theatre. —Jim Morekis

Runner-up: Tony Thomas scandal

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