Jonathan McCollar handily won a second four-year term as mayor of Statesboro, capturing 1,493 votes while challenger Ernest Larry Lawton received 266 votes in the municipal election that concluded at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
So, almost 85% of the votes cast in the mayoral race went to McCollar, after he and his campaign volunteers focused their efforts on making sure supporters went to the polls. He teared up at first when his margin of victory became obvious on the new display screen affixed to a wall at the Bulloch County Board of Elections and Registration headquarters.
“I’m overwhelmed by the confidence that the people of Statesboro have shown in this administration and extremely humbled by the support, as well as the confidence in what we’re doing within the city,” McCollar said a little later. “So I’m really speechless based on what we’ve seen tonight.”
But any celebration was much more subdued than four years earlier, when McCollar made history by becoming Statesboro’s first African-American mayor. That fall, in 2017, he won in a rematch against Jan Moore, who in 2014 had won to become the city’s first female mayor.
Even the historic 2017 election garnered only about a 16% turnout, after many voters previously registered for presidential and gubernatorial elections did not participate in the mayoral one. This fall’s city election turnout was even thinner, despite the presence of both the mayoral race and a referendum to allow liquor stores on the ballot.
After 17 days of early voting, including two Saturdays, plus 12 hours of Election Day with two Statesboro precincts open 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday, only about 11% of Statesboro’s 15,915 total registered voters participated, or 12.6% of the 14,022 voters considered “active” because they had voted in the last election cycle or updated their registration.
Lawton, a business owner, truck driver and minister, had cited goals for public safety, business expansion, youth development and care for senior citizens and veterans. After campaigning on the idea that the city’s leadership should show love for the people, he sounded a friendly and conciliatory note when phoned after the results were known.
“It was a great election. The people chose who they wanted, so I’m satisfied,” Lawton said. “I wanted to serve the people, so if the people chose who they wanted to serve them, I’m good. I’m happy.”
In the year’s only Statesboro City Council district contest, John Riggs held onto the District 4 seat by receiving 133 votes to challenger Kristine Yager-Rushton’s 89 votes. After learning the results, they made neighborly comments about each other and their supporters, as will be included in an expansion of this story for Thursday’s edition.