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Does Savannah’s Little-known Mayoral Candidate Actually Live in Savannah?

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The address that Tyrisha Davis listed as her residence when she registered as a mayoral candidate in Savannah is a vacant pink home, with a “For Rent” sign and a broken window. A neighbor said the home has been empty for weeks and the property manager does not recall anyone with her name renting the home.

The Current has been unable to confirm a Savannah address or locate a valid voting registration record for her in Georgia — lapses that place her in possible breach of guidelines that require a mayoral candidate to live in Savannah for one year and be a voter.

Davis declined to comment when asked by The Current where she lives and what municipal district she votes in. 

“Don’t you know that people are getting death threats at their mailbox?” Davis said on Monday. “So why would I want to publish or provide my information to anybody?’”

It’s uncertain how the findings will impact the mayoral race taking place Tuesday pitting Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter and Davis against incumbent Mayor Van Johnson. 

Ahead of Election Day, 7,333 Savannah residents voted early, and many political observers expect a close race between the two better-known candidates, meaning a third candidate could siphon off votes that could prove crucial to the outcome.

In a state that has been at the center of the nationwide voter integrity debate, Georgia’s sixth-largest city has largely avoided challenges to its conduct of elections.

‘An anomaly, not a systematic flaw’

Mayor Johnson, when reached Monday night, stated that he hopes the allegations about Davis’ candidacy represent an anomaly in the city’s candidate qualification system, not a systematic flaw.

“​​I live here. I live where I say I have to live,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure whether we would have the wherewithal or the means to be able to go to people’s houses and look at their houses and see if they actually live there or not.” 

Gibson-Carter said she thinks that Davis’ candidacy is part of ongoing political maneuvers to prevent her from winning the top elected position in Savannah. City officials should have caught any anomalies or irregularities by candidates before early voting started, she added.

“I have to rely on citizens being smarter than tricks, bigger than endorsements and more than money,” the alderwoman said.

City clerk and superintendent of city elections, Mark Massey, did not respond to emailed questions from The Current. Earlier Monday, Massey did provide documentation showing Davis’ sworn affidavit that lists her residence, voting precinct and, separately, a receipt for her $1,710 qualifying fee, which she paid in cash. 

The affidavit also states that, as of Election Day, Davis will have lived in Savannah for one year and three months.

https://embed.documentcloud.org/documents/24123031-20230825_noca_t-l-davis_redacted/?embed=1&responsive=1&title=1

Eligibility standards

Savannah’s 2023 list of requirements for candidates explains that to run for office a person must be at least 18 years old and not fall under Georgia’s eligibility law. That law forbids the election of anyone who has “not been a bona fide citizen of the county in which that person shall be elected or appointed at least 12 months prior to that person’s election or appointment and who is not a qualified voter entitled to vote.”

On Monday afternoon, The Current visited the small property with pink paint listed on the affidavit. Nobody answered the door, the front rooms were empty, and a “For Rent” sign hangs on the side of the home facing Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. 

Grace Cohen, the property manager, stated that she did not recognize the name “Tyrisha Davis” as someone who ever rented the home. A neighbor two doors down said in the three weeks he has lived on the block, nobody has lived in the house.

Cohen said another person is signing a lease for the property on Tuesday. 

According to Georgia’s Secretary of State’s voter database, Davis registered to vote on August 25, 2023, the same day she filed her affidavit as a mayoral candidate to the Savannah city clerk’s office. 

To register to vote in Georgia one must provide a state ID or driver’s license and a permanent address. Davis’ voter registration does not provide an address, and the secretary of state’s office does not appear to have assigned her a precinct where she could cast a ballot. 

There is no record of Davis voting in Georgia prior to this year.

https://embed.documentcloud.org/documents/24123030-receipt-for-qualifying-fee_tl-davis/?embed=1&responsive=1&title=1

The third candidate

Davis, originally from Waterloo, Iowa, and later an Arizona resident, has faced questions about her candidacy, as she struggled for visibility in a race monopolized by two of the city’s most dynamic political leaders.

Rev. Leonard Small, a community activist who has experience with the candidacy registration process, said he received complaints that Davis did not live in the city in July. Small, who supports Gibson-Carter’s candidacy, said he tried to look into the issue, and could not find an address for her. 

He fears that Davis’ run for office will negatively affect the race. 

“Early voting is over. That may have been pivotal in terms of who becomes the mayor,” Small said, “Now I lay this entire matter at the feet of the city clerk, who obviously feels like, no matter what people put on the paper, it does not have to be corroborated.”

The Current has discovered numerous inconsistencies regarding her residency and movements. It remains unclear when she arrived in Georgia.

Davis moved from Iowa to Arizona, where she attended school and worked.  

She faced eviction in Arizona in early 2021.

According to court documents, on Oct. 6, 2021, Davis filed a civil rights complaint to the Arizona Attorney General’s office and stated her address as P.O. Box 84021, Phoenix, Ariz. 

She filed a lawsuit in federal court, based upon that original complaint, on Dec. 15, 2022, using another P.O Box address in Phoenix. 

In January 2023 court filings show that Davis asked to have documents sent to her at the second P.O. Box in Arizona. 

https://embed.documentcloud.org/documents/24123146-az-lawsuit-and-address/?embed=1&responsive=1&title=1

In a court document filed Jun. 21, Davis said that she was working for a Port Wentworth janitorial service. She told the court that her monthly income was $746 as part of her explanation pleading to be exempted from court fees. At the bottom of the document she states her address as Savannah Georgia, with no further detail.

Separately on that date, Davis filed a declaration of intent to run for office in Savannah and listed her address as  “1305 Barnard Street #2027.” That address is Mailbox Cafe, a commercial business where one can purchase a post office box to receive mail.

On July 26, the domain name used for Davis’ campaign website was purchased.

On Aug. 25, Davis filed a Notice of Candidacy and Affidavit document in Savannah  – something required for all municipal candidates – stating her home address as “502 West 34th Street,” and her voting precinct as the YMCA on West Broad. Massey notarized the document. 

On the same day, Davis paid the qualifying fee — $1,710, an amount that equals 3% of the mayor’s salary — in cash. And she registered to vote in Georgia, according to Secretary of State records.

Her federal court case in Arizona, meanwhile, was dismissed in October. The docket for the case shows her address at the mailbox office at 1305 Barnard St. in Savannah.

In an interview with The Current on Nov. 2 about her past arrest record and interactions with police, Davis said she did not want to give out her address for fear of her privacy being breached. 

At that time, she said that she lived “downtown,” and has lived in Savannah for the last two years. 

When contacted four days later to respond to the fact that the property she had listed as her residence was a vacant house and to clarify her voting status in Savannah, Davis did not return requests for comment. 

This article first appeared on The Current and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.


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