Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Voting at convention of the Chatham County Republican Party, Savannah, Ga., Saturday, March 11, 2023 Credit: Craig Nelson

Insurgents win Chatham County GOP elections

A group of upstart Republicans led by the president of an ultraconservative GOP regional organization has won a majority of leadership posts in the Chatham County Republican Party.

At the local party’s convention in Savannah on Saturday, candidates endorsed by the Chatham County GOP went down to defeat in five of six executive committee races, losing to a candidate slate organized by Brittany Brown, who won the top job, routing Ayeda Shihadeh Ali by a vote of 123-52, The Current’s Craig Nelson reports.

Running on a technocratic platform promising “reliability and accountability,” Brown said her election was a testament not to any particular political positions she holds. Rather, she said, it was her commitment to a “big tent” party and to no-nonsense organizing that drew the votes of a majority of Republican conventioneers.

“My goal is not to shut anyone out,” Brown told The Current in an interview yesterday. “It’s to make sure that everyone feels welcomed, that people interested in the Republican Party get their phone calls and emails returned, that we establish a headquarters.”

Yet whether the insurgent slate’s victory on Saturday will heal — or deepen — long-running divisions among the more than 45,000 registered Chatham County Republicans is far from certain. Despite Republican domination of coastal and state politics, those divisions run deep. One delegate, a lifelong Savannahian with deep roots in the Republican Party, was skeptical about the new leadership. “They don’t know how things are done here,” she said.

Savannah City Hall
Savannah City Hall Credit: Jeffery M. Glover/ The Current

Term limits & school board salaries

Four Savannah-area lawmakers — three Democrats, one Republican — have introduced legislation to impose term limits on mayors and council members in Savannah.

Under the proposed legislation, HB 703, co-sponsored by Republicans Ron Stephens and Democrats Edna Jackson, Anne Allen Westbrook, and Carl Gilliard, mayors would be limited to two consecutive four-year terms and council members to three consecutive four-year terms.

On the local education front, Westbrook, Gilliard, and Jackson, along with Republicans Ron Stephens and Jesse Petrea, have introduced legislation calling for salary increases to the chairman and members of the Savannah-Chatham County school board.

Under the proposed legislation, HB 702, the chairman would receive an annual salary of $35,000 and board members, $25,000. In 2021, the Savannah Morning News reported that then-school board president Joe Buck received $16,000 annually, while board members received $12,000 per year.

Meanwhile, Reps. Al Williams (D-Midway) and Buddy DeLoach (R-Townsend) are pushing to amend Riceboro’s charter to impose residency requirements on the mayor and city council members.

With the session winding to a conclusion on March 29, the prospects for the legislation aren’t certain.

Howard Gilman Memorial
Howard Gilman Memorial Waterfront Park in St. Marys. Credit: Jeffery M. Glover/ The Current

Sea wall for St. Marys?

A special election will be held next Tuesday, March 21, in St. Marys to fill the city council seat left open by the death of council member-elect Danny Riggins. Vying for the seat are Chad Ingram, Jay Moreno, and Mike Wilkie.

Among other issues debated by the candidates at a Feb. 25 forum: the construction of a sea wall along the city’s waterfront to prevent flooding downtown.

At the same forum, Wilkie lamented the high turnover rate of city employees, partly due to the attraction of higher salaries elsewhere. “St. Marys is in trouble,” he said.

Low early voting is already worrying, the News reports: “The city has 15,064 registered voters. In the past six days of early voting for the March 21 special election, only 423 voters have showed up to cast their early vote. Another 26 absentee ballots have been issues and one has been received.”

The city’s five polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

georgia ballot box vote


Insurgent Republicans win Chatham County party leadership posts

At the local party’s convention in Savannah on Saturday, candidates endorsed by the Chatham County GOP went down to defeat in five of six executive committee races.

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Craig Nelson is a former international correspondent for The Associated Press, the Sydney (Australia) Morning-Herald, Cox Newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. He also served as foreign editor for The...