The student led, student read news organization at Georgia Southern University

The George-Anne Media Group

The student led, student read news organization at Georgia Southern University

The George-Anne Media Group

The student led, student read news organization at Georgia Southern University

The George-Anne Media Group

Savannah Mayoral Candidates Face Off on Gun Violence and Rent Control

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  • Mayor Van R. Johnson and candidate Kesha Gibson-carter faced off at a mayoral forum hosted by The League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia

  • Current Mayor Van R. Johnson

  • Mayoral candidate and current Alderwoman At-Large Kesha Gibson-Carter

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Hundreds gathered at the Georgia Coastal Center on Tuesday evening to gauge the candidates’ positions on key local issues, as the mayoral race for Savannah’s 68th term intensifies.

On Oct. 10, The League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia hosted the final event in their Savannah Municipal Elections 2023 Forum Series, featuring incumbent Mayor Van Johnson and challenger Keisha Gibson-Carter.

Both Mayor Johnson and Gibson-Carter have been members of the city council since 2020.

Johnson first joined the Savannah City Council in 2004, serving as the District 1 alderman for 16 years. He won the 2019 mayoral runoff election with 14,884 votes, defeating then-Mayor Eddie DeLoach, who garnered 9,291 votes.

Gibson-Carter secured the At-Large Post 1 alderwoman seat by a margin of 264 votes out of nearly 23,000 cast, defeating Carol Bell.

Both Johnson and Gibson-Carter have outlined plans to tackle the city’s gun violence issue. According to the Savannah Police Department’s official 2022 Crime Report, 28 out of 32 homicides in the city were gun-related. Similarly, in 2021, guns were used in 28 of the 34 reported homicides.

“Personally, I’ve been buying guns off of kids and I’ve done that now for the last several years,” Johnson said. “Because I recognize that if the gun is not in the kids’ hands then it’s hard for somebody to get shot with that gun.”

“This administration has not put forth one policy that speaks to the one demographic who suffers most as a result of gun violence, and crime in our community, and that is the African American male,” Gibson-Carter said.

A Savannah student questioned the candidates on how the city can progress as a community when their peers are continually falling victim to gun violence.

“When I become mayor, it (Gun Violence) will be among the first issues that are tackled along with my council, we will engage in a way in which we start working with our local pastors not as our friends and our buddies, but our local pastors who will actually be boots on the ground and help us provide all of those resources related to post-traumatic stress,” said Gibson-Carter.

“Although we don’t revel in it, homicides are down in this community 43% and aggravated assaults with guns are down 14%,” Johnson said. “But the fact of the matter is, I’m not home; I’m in the streets with these young people. We already have a partnership with pastors and members of our faith community, called our Soul Patrol. They’re already out there working, and I attribute some of their work to keeping our numbers down.”

When questioned about legislative priorities for state lawmakers, both candidates emphasized the need for rent control.

“Right now someone can raise someone’s rent 300, 400, 500% and just do it,” Johnson said.

“When we declare a state of emergency, there are provisions against what’s called price gouging,” Johnson continued. “I think the state of Georgia can provide housing stabilization to prevent landlords from unfairly and unreasonably raising rents in a gouging manner.”

“For Savannahians to remain Savannahians, it would definitely be rent control,” Gibson-Carter said. “Over four years, we’ve had the opportunity to get this right. As a result, we’ve lost nearly 10,000 Savannah units due to forced displacement and rapid gentrification.”

“There are ways our Council could engage with property owners and petition for special use permits. We could negotiate and collaborate, but we’ve failed to do so repeatedly, allowing for mass developments that Savannahians simply can’t afford,” Gibson-Carter added.

Eligible voters in Chatham County can cast their ballots early from Oct. 17 to Nov. 3. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 27 and Election Day is set for Nov. 7.

Voters can verify their eligibility, check their registration status and confirm their voting precincts by visiting the My Voter Page portal.

“You sent me with a mandate: no more establishment politics, no more business as usual,” Gibson-Carter said. “You wanted us to invest not in brick and mortar, but in flesh and blood.”

“What are you going to choose: divisiveness or decisiveness? Inclusion or exclusion? Victoriousness or victimization? Dignity or defeat? Face-to-face interaction or Facebook?” Johnson asked.

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About the Contributors
Jabari Gibbs
Jabari Gibbs, Editor-in-Chief, The Inkwell

An award-winning senior Communications major from Atlanta, Georgia, Jabari is passionate about bringing diverse perspectives to the news. He has been with The Inkwell since 2021 and has been Editor-in-Chief since the spring of 2022.

Jabari has led investigative pieces that have led to change and have been picked up by local publications. In addition to multiple individual awards, Jabari was selected as a 2023 Emma Bowden Fellow. He focuses on stories that bring to light the issues that matter most to students.

He oversees all aspects of the newspaper, including managing staff and making editorial decisions. As Editor-in-Chief, the Inkwell has tripled in size and increased the frequency of its digital newsletter, which averages over 6000 opens. The Inkwell has won several awards under his leadership, including best overall news coverage from the Georgia College Press Association and best print publication from the Southern Regional Press Institute.

He can be reached at if you have any tips!

Christina Charles
Christina Charles, Culture Editor

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