Brannen said Friday he was stunned when he called Grice to talk about the upcoming race and Grice "called me mayor."
Brannen qualified to run for the mayor's seat at 4:10 p.m. Friday, 20 minutes before the deadline. He said he decided to run because "I felt like the City of Statesboro needed a choice" and Grice had been the only candidate who qualified. But Grice's stepping down has eliminated the possibility of citizens having a choice. "It's hard right now for me to comprehend" the fact that he is a shoo-in for mayor, he said.
Grice said his reason for withdrawal was that he felt running against Brannen would further divide the city, and that he felt the challenge of the race with two divided camps would not benefit the city or his family.
"Over the last few weeks I've realized ... just how divided our city really is," he said. The business community seems to be pitted against the college community, and "we're at a point where we need to just start healing."
Grice said he knew the race would be passionate, with tension between supporters of each candidate. "Is it worth running a race for eight more weeks ... and causing the city to become more divided?"
Grice said he had a lot of support from citizens and felt he could have won the race, but he realized "that there are a lot of challenges I would have to overcome in order to defeat Joe Brannen."
He said he realizes some will be disappointed, but "at the end of t he day I have to do what is right for my family and my city."
He also said he realized Statesboro's problems were more involved than he had realized. The city has faced issue after issue, including controversy surrounding former city clerk Judy McCorkle, and alcohol ordinance concerns.
"I thought these were superficial issues, but I see they go so much deeper," Grice said. "I commend Joe Brannen for doing this and think we need to get behind him and support him, and move (the city) forward."
Brannen said as mayor, he hopes to "see that all our employees are happy and that we provide for them and for the citizens of Statesboro. I hope to see everybody working together. I do want to see more industry, better paying jobs, and to keep moving forward."
Regarding the city's troubled past, Brannen said, "I want all that put behind us. If a problem starts under the new administration we will go ahead and take care of it then."
In other Statesboro city council races, John Riggs qualified for District 4 Wednesday - the seat vacated by Brannen. Fred Parrish and Lottie Johnson also qualified for the post Friday.
Parrish said Friday he was unsure of what he hoped to accomplish should he be elected, except that he hoped to have a positive influence on Statesboro's politics.
He said he would "... try my best to do my best for the welfare of the people in Statesboro. Whatever it takes. I have no agenda at this time."
Johnson said " I hope to do everything I can to help the growth of Statesboro" should she be elected.
District 1 incumbent Tommy Blitch qualified for the office Monday, as did challenger William Thomas. Benji Lewis qualified Tuesday for District 1.
The city election is Nov. 3, and the deadline t register to vote in this election is Oct. 5. Citizens must live in a district to vote for that district's council seat.
Citizens can register to vote at the Bulloch County Courthouse.