The two survivors of Macon’s mayoral primary election are planning to spend the next four weeks focusing on much of the same territory and the same potential voters.
Incumbent Mayor Robert Reichert, who fell 2 percent short of winning the Democratic primary outright Tuesday, and former Mayor C. Jack Ellis, who took almost 38 percent of the vote, will face one another again Aug. 16 without competition from two other candidates: former state Sen. Robert Brown and former firefighter Paul Bronson, who captured 9 percent and 5 percent of Tuesday’s vote, respectively.
Reichert said he’ll study turnout results and spend much of his effort in areas where he did poorly.
“But the main thing is to continue to emphasize personal qualifications, a record of accomplishment, and vision of the city going forward, and who can project the best image of the city,” he said. “We hope people will make their decision based on those qualities, and not on something as superficial as race.”
A breakdown of mayoral election results shows that candidates’ support can still be broken down along lines of race and class -- but not absolutely. Each candidate drew at least some support from competitors’ strongholds.
Reichert did better in wealthier and majority-white neighborhoods, concentrated on the north side of town. There he took vote totals as high as 91.5 percent; that came on either side of Vineville Avenue and Forsyth Road, including along the course of the controversial Forest Hill Road widening project.
Ellis drew his strongest support in poorer neighborhoods such as Unionville and along Houston Avenue, topping out at 69.5 percent of the vote between Mercer University Drive, Pio Nono Avenue and Eisenhower Parkway.
Brown did his best in east Macon, but nowhere drew more than 18 percent of the vote. Bronson did best around Mercer University Drive and Napier Avenue, the same areas where Ellis was strongest and Brown, too, did relatively well.
Ellis, traveling Wednesday, said he considers it a victory to have forced a runoff.
“I’m very, very pleased,” he said.
His mission for the next four weeks will be to combat Reichert’s financial advantage with an intensive turnout effort, Ellis said.
“This is a ground war, not an air war,” he said. “(We have) no illusions that we’re going to spend thousands of dollars on television commercials. That’s not our game plan.”
Reichert raised nearly three times as much money as Ellis. But Reichert also talks of “meeting people on the ground, where they are,” hanging on to existing territory while winning new supporters with “logic and reason.”
Ellis has already reached out to the third- and fourth-place candidates in hopes of attracting their support and followers, he said.
“Some of their ideas are my ideas. They’re universal ideas,” Ellis said. “We all are committed to reducing crime. It’s just a matter of how we go about doing that.”
He doesn’t favor Brown’s proposal to hire 50 new police officers, but he said he shares the concern.
“I think we reduce crime by reducing poverty and making sure people have jobs,” Ellis said.
While he spoke several times of including Brown and Bronson supporters in his “big tent” campaign, Ellis never mentioned hopes of persuading Reichert supporters.
Reichert openly said he figures that Ellis’ supporters have no reason to lessen their commitment. He too is seeking help from at least one defeated candidate. Reichert said he has left a phone message for Bronson, but he has had only “indirect contact” with Brown and has not reached out to him.
A major effort, however, will be devoted to those who sat on the fence Tuesday waiting for a clearer choice, Reichert said.
“There are more people out there who can vote, and we want to emphasize the fact that just because you didn’t vote in the primary doesn’t mean you can’t vote in the runoff election,” he said.
More of both groups -- those who backed Brown and Bronson, and those who didn’t vote at all -- are on Ellis’ home ground. But getting them to the polls may be a bigger problem than winning nominal support: even with City Council, state House and state Senate seats at stake citywide, mayoral race turnout was still highest where Reichert was strongest.
And even with the variety of races on Tuesday’s ballot, voter enthusiasm was apparently not high, according to Elaine Carr, Bibb County Board of Elections supervisor.
Out of Macon’s roughly 91,000 people, there are currently 46,740 registered voters, she said. Only about 37 percent of those, however, actually voted for a mayoral candidate Tuesday.
“That’s low compared to the past two city primaries,” Carr said.