SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Alderman Tony Thomas has been in office for 20 years and seeking his sixth term. Now he’s facing a runoff for the first time in his political career on the council.
This week, he got a boost from the Savannah Tribune, a historically African American newspaper, in the form of an endorsement.
“The Tribune is a big endorsement for my campaign and we were very happy to receive it,” said Thomas.
The Tribune says Thomas has not only represented the sixth district well but has been a “strong voice” for all of Savannah.
His challenger Kurtis Purtee has a different viewpoint.
“I think that he gets things done for a certain group of people but you’ve got a lot of folks out there that are neglected,” said Purtee.
Purtee is a law enforcement officer who said the district needs a new voice.
“Fifty-three percent of the vote (in the general election) was received by myself and the other candidate, Mr. Anotonio Hunter,” Purtee told News 3. “So there’s 53 percent of the people out there that want a change and that want something different.”
Purtee made a point of saying that Hunter has endorsed his campaign.
The newcomer says the sixth district needs more attention in terms of sidewalks, pedestrian crosswalks, utilizing abandoned buildings, retaining and attracting more businesses, and a host of other things.
“We have lots of kids in this area and some impoverished neighborhoods that we need to fix and we need to get involved. We have nothing for youth around here to do and we have to fix that,” said Purtee.
Thomas told News 3 projects such as adding more sidewalks are “in the works” and will be done now that a new SPLOST has been approved.
The incumbent talked to us at Coffee Bluff Marina, a project he says is the culmination of years of work by himself and the council.
“This is one of the biggest accomplishments that we’ve made in the 20 years that I’ve been on the council,” Thomas said. “This is the only municipal marina in the city it represents a six and a half million dollar investment of public funds.”
Purtee says it’s not enough and that at some point, Thomas always resorts to criticizing his own constituents.
“The biggest thing that differentiates myself from Tony Thomas is the fact that I get out there and listen to people. I may not agree with everybody but I’m not going to block everybody on social media,” said Purtee.
Thomas insists he works with people all over his district.
“I’ve worked hard across the community, I’ve tried to work hard with every group of individuals from fisherman down here at Coffee Bluff to African Americans across the city to Whites,” he told News 3.
In its endorsement, The Savannah Tribune did not mention many of the controversies surrounding Thomas, only to say that “even during times when he faced personal challenges and criticisms, he was not distracted from his responsibilities as a Savannah Alderman.”
Purtee says he and his supporters will continue to seek out voters, including the minority voters now being encouraged to vote for Thomas.
Purtee also mentioned issues regarding Thomas and Savannah Mall (where Thomas had a business) saying Thomas “may dispute the fact that there are liens involved in all that but court records tell a different story.”
Thomas says his campaign is full steam ahead as well. He also addressed what he called “rumors” on social media that he does not live in the sixth district any longer.
“I live where I’ve lived my entire life and haven’t lived anywhere else,” Thomas said.