Could Atlanta elect a white mayor in 2017? Does it matter?


Could Atlanta elect a white mayor in 2017? Does it matter?

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Former Atlanta mayors Ivan Allen, Sam Massell, Maynard Jackson, Bill Campbell, Maynard Jackson and Andy Young pose at a function in Piedmont Park in 1997. In 2017, Atlanta voters may elect the city's first white mayor since 1973. (AJC Staff Photo/Rich Addicks)

Atlanta has had a succession of black mayors for the past 44 years — the longest unbroken string in the country. That may change in the city election Nov. 7, just six months from now.

White millennials and empty nesters, looking to avoid long commutes and yearning for a more urban lifestyle, are moving into the city at the same time that the black population is ticking downward. That has resulted in a white voting population that is close to parity with the black voting population.

A new poll shows Mary Norwood with a double digit lead over her 11 mayoral opponents and some are again speculating that Atlanta could soon see a white mayor after a 44-year drought. (Erica A. Hernandez/AJC)

But experts say race may not have the impact it had in the past. Voters are more interested in pocketbook issues than the skin color of the candidate. 

City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who is white, nearly won the mayor’s race in 2009 and is in the lead this year. Fellow Councilman Kwanza Hall, who is black, has held onto his seat as his district — Old Fourth Ward — has switched from majority black to majority white over the past decade. 

“Voters are focused on issues that are important to them,” said William Boone, a political scientist at Clark Atlanta University. “The racial divide does exist in Atlanta, but the importance of voting along racial lines is shifting.”

Note: Commenting for this article is being moderated by AJC editors.

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