Dirty, even for Savannah politics

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Politics as usual? Not exactly in District 5.

This week, your municipal election process may have hit a low point. From personal threats to stealing another candidate's name and success, something in Savannah is starting to stink.

And while questionable tactics are turning some candidates red in the face, it's you the voter, who has to decide how far all this can go, before it's gone too far.

Good luck trying to squeak out any sense of what a candidate stands for in debates like this one.  Last night's 5th District debate sponsored by the Civil Rights Museum, was reduced to nothing shy of a cat fight.  But it's what challenger, Shaundra McKeithen said happened to her after the debate that gets the vote for an October surprise.

She said Yusuf Shabazz, husband of incumbent Estella Shabazz, blocked the door when she tried to leave.

"And he looked at me very menacing and he opened his jacket to show me that he had a gun," claims Shaundra McKeithen. "Now that crossed the line. He didn't say anything. But it was the way in which he did it that let me know that that was a threat."

Between that alleged threat and a month's worth of scathing social media postings by her opponent, McKeithen was clear in her resolve.

"I will always stand up to bullies."

The act was shocking enough.  The location was insult to injury.

"Right there in the Civil Rights Museum you know," said McKeithen. "That is not the place that I would think that I would be receiving terroristic threats."

That whole night was not exactly what organizers had hoped for.

Carl Miller is the chairman of the Civil Rights Museum, "We set out to host three nights of debates to allow the community to come out and hear the candidate's views and visions for how they can move Savannah forward.  Of course at times it became heated as things can be in politics. But I think it's also beneficial for the public if the candidates would stick to the issues and not address individuals."

Someone clearly missed that email.

The agents for change in these municipal elections will tell you they have a real up-hill battle on their hands.  But it's the supporters of the status quo who many say will do just about anything they can to get what they want.

Just ask Mayor Edna Jackson. The mayor was handed a flyer when she arrived at the debate. In fact, it was her flyer with several other candidates riding her coat-tails like an endorsement.

"This is disrespectful, dishonest," Jackson told the audience of the flyer. "Don't do this again.
Whoever did it are, I don't want to call them criminals but they are people who can't be trusted."

Of course, no one had the courage to claim responsibility.

As for Shaundra McKeithen, she's planning to file a restraining order against the Shabazz's, and hire private security for all future events.

WTOC's David Klugh asked her if she really felt that was necessary. "Yes I do. Yes I've had to hire someone to be a bodyguard for me because, you know, I don't feel safe."

The police report titled, "Terroristic Threats", that McKeithen filed with Savannah-Chatham Metro Police said the pistol she saw clipped to Shabazz's waistband appeared to be a small caliber, black-handled pistol.

WTOC spoke to Estella Shabazz earlier this evening.  Her response to all this, "No comment."

As for her husband, Yusuf, we're still waiting for a call back.

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