By Jim Kingston –
Jim Kingston: Two years after losing a countywide race, you decided to run citywide for mayor of Savannah. The odds were a lot less in your favor. Why did you decide to enter this race?
Eddie DeLoach: Savannah was, and still is, at a crossroads. Crime is on the rise. The business climate was quickly deteriorating. The city was being reckless with taxpayer dollars, and there didn’t seem to be anyone in City Hall with the leadership abilities to turn the ship around. I knew that if I wanted a safe Savannah for my kids and grand-kids, I had to step up to the plate no matter the political cost.
Kingston: It has been almost a decade since the city has had a Republican mayor. What made you able to win over a majority of votes in an area where a conservative has not been able to do this in recent memory?
DeLoach: While I am a conservative Republican, I ran as the candidate for change in leadership. I ran as the candidate who would give our police department every resource and tool necessary to protect our citizens. I ran as the candidate who would listen to the constituents and who would respond to their most basic needs of safety and economic prosperity. We had the right message, we had the right time and I like to think we had the right candidate.
Kingston: Since before your announcement conservatives all over town were saying that your candidacy had “no chance.” How did you stay motivated and convince people to send your campaign money?
DeLoach: We knew going into this race that we were going to be the underdog, but there was a core group of supporters that did not give up on their dream for a safer Savannah. They spent hundreds of hours (and that is no exaggeration) calling donor prospects, potential supporters and others to convince them that this city needed and was very ready for a change in leadership.
Kingston: What was the key to your victory. Someone on election day told me your volunteers had personally called all city registered voters seven times each. Is this true? How did you put together such a well-coordinated grassroots effort?
DeLoach: If you asked the average voter, I’m sure they’d tell you it felt a lot more like 70 calls. We were in constant contact with voters. Our campaign strategists, Mark Rountree and Jordan Fuchs, put together a great media plan and my campaign manager Carmen Foskey ran a great ground game that did include multiple contacts in a variety of ways to voters throughout the city. Plus, our campaign had great volunteers who came in every day to make calls, write cards, and knock on doors.
Kingston: This race was almost solely run on the issue of crime. Where has the city gone wrong in the past, and how will your mayorship change the bad crime?
DeLoach: I know that it is naive to think a mayor in a strong city-manager form of government can change overnight, but I do think there are some small steps we can take to improve the issue. On the campaign trail, I pledged that we would have the police force fully staffed and that I would provide every resource possible to Chief Joseph Lumpkin. I stand by my word and I promise to be the best sales person for the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department. We need good, upstanding men and women to join our force and if you’re interested in joining our police force, please contact (912) 651-4226.
Kingston: What other goals do you have for your four-year term?
DeLoach: The second issue in the campaign was the lack of vision and long range planning. In my first 100 days in office, me, my transition team, the Council and the City Manager will work closely together to develop a comprehensive strategy that shows how we move Savannah forward.
Kingston: Many successful businessman like yourself stay away from party politics. You serve as an officer in the Chatham County GOP club. What makes you want to give up your time in participate in thankless work such as this?
DeLoach: Well, you realize that there were good people who carried the load before you did, so you’re willing to give up your time to carry on that work.
Kingston: What advice do you have for candidates running in races where conventional wisdom and electoral history is against them?
DeLoach: Keep your chin up and keep your focus on the bigger picture. By no means did we have an easy race, but we always had a team that was focused on doing everything possible to create a better Savannah. We didn’t think about the politics, we thought about the city’s people.
Kingston: Though you have plenty of business-friendly credentials, the local Chamber of Commerce worked against you this race. Why do you think they supported the incumbent? How do you turn around and work with an organization like this after they spent months trying to keep you out of office?
DeLoach: The Savannah Area Business PAC that chose to endorse Mayor Edna Jackson is composed of all Chamber members, however it is not the Chamber’s PAC. The process is undemocratic and is not representative of the business community’s interests. With that being said, I want to make sure Savannah is business friendly and I will work with the Chamber however I can accomplish that goal.
Kingston: Do you plan on serving more than one term?
DeLoach: I just finished one campaign and I am in no rush to jump into a second. However, we’ve got a lot of ideas that will take a few years to get up and off the ground. I hope I’m given the opportunity to finish these projects.