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FEATURE: Van Johnson Wins Savannah Mayoral Run-Off With Over 61% of Vote

By Lou Phelps, SBJ

December 3, 2019 – District 1 Alderman Van Johnson has defeated Mayor Eddie DeLoach, seeking a second term, by a wide margin in Tuesday’s City of Savannah Mayoral election run-offresults.

First elected to the Savannah City Council in 2004, Johnson was elected Savannah’s 67th Mayor tonight with a decisive victory with 14,884 or 61.57% of the votes cast to Mayor DeLoach’s 9,291 votes.  Results are unofficial until certified later this week.

In remarks before a large crowd, Johnson said that DeLoach had called him to concede, and was “very kind, and offered his help during the transition.” 

Johnson led Tuesday night  from the first votes released, and never lost the lead as the city’s 53 precincts reported. Each of the candidates’ largest polling locations came in early Tuesday night as supporters watched TV screens at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, where the Johnson campaign held their election night watch party.

At polling location First Presbyterian Church in Ardsley Park, always a DeLoach stronghold, turnout was low with DeLoach only leading Johnson by 413 votes,  portending  the election results for the rest of the night.

At Jonesville Baptist Church, another of the city’s large polling locations, Johnson trounced DeLoach with 798 votes to 98 for DeLoach.

The Mayor's normal supporters appear to have spoken with silence, not turning out both during the General Election on Nov. 5, and for the Tuesday run-off, according to political observers.  Many blamed DeLoach’s support of a fire fee tax that would have affected residential, commercial, church and school properties across the city.  From when it was first introduced by DeLoach and City Manager Rob  Hernandez, Johnson opposed the tax and eventually convinced DeLoach to drop his effort to impose the fee. 

Turnout had been reported to be light across the city all day, however the early voting in the few weeks before Tuesday’s run-off exceededthe early vote numbers  prior to the General Election on Nov. 5. There were 5,127 early votes cast in advance of the Nov. 5 General Election this year, but 5,276 cast in the run-off election, according to the Chatham County Board of Elections Registrar, Ms. Sabrina German.

There were also 894 Absentee ballots returned by 5 p.m. Tuesday, of the more than 1,200 requested, according to German. 

In his remarks Tuesday after the election results were finalized, Mayor-Elect Johnson said that the business community had deserted him in this year's election in favor of DeLoach, but that others had stepped forward to support him.  In addition to a number of local unions and law enforcement organizations, Johnson named the Democratic National Committee; the Georgia Democratic Party; the National Democratic Municipal Officials; for Rep. Stacey Abrams, and former Newark Mayor and U.S. Senator Cory Booker, who called Johnson to congratulate him while he was making his remarks.  A number of the organizations had sent in volunteers to help Johnson get out the vote, recognizing the statewide political importance if one of Georgia’s most important cities had a Democratic Mayor.

Johnson also thanked former mayors  Dr. Otis Johnson and Edna Jackson.

Shirley Barber James, publisher of The Savannah Tribune, served as Johnson’s Campaign Manager, and Scott Center served as the Campaign Treasurer.  

Pictured:  Mayor-Elect Van Johnson with his campaign manager Shirley James, who is also publisher of The Savannah Tribune. 

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