2023 Elections: Key local races in metro Atlanta

A person enters the Israel Baptist Church in Kirkwood during election day on Tuesday, December 6, 2022.
 Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

A person enters the Israel Baptist Church in Kirkwood during election day on Tuesday, December 6, 2022. Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

It’s an off-year election but local voters still have plenty of important ballot decisions to make.

In-person early voting is already underway in local races across metro Atlanta. Voters in dozens of cities are tasked with picking mayors and council members, and some county voters get to weigh in on funding for parks, transportation and other capital construction projects.

Some of the biggest races are happening in DeKalb County, where each of the 12 cities have council seats on the ballot. Voters also will decide whether to extend two 1-cent sales taxes.

A number of cities across the region could see new mayors: Brookhaven is guaranteed to have a new mayor, and there are competitive races in Smyrna and Stonecrest that could result in new leadership.

Atlanta residents who live in Fulton and DeKalb counties will pick representatives to serve on Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education.

Voters can check early voting locations and sample ballots online at mvp.sos.ga.gov.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7 and voters can cast ballots from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Below, see a breakdown of some of the key races across the region.

Clayton County

Morrow Mayor John Lampl will face City Councilwoman Van Tran for the Clayton County city’s top post. Lampl and Tran often butt heads during council meetings, with Tran complaining of a lack of transparency under Lampl and Lampl pushing back on Tran’s frequent questions during meetings.

Tran also was censured by her colleagues in August, a month after her July push to persuade the city of almost 7,000 to offer ballots in English, Vietnamese and Spanish in future elections made national headlines. A fellow council member Dorothy Dean labeled Tran’s proposal “un-American,” leading to a flood of headlines over her comments. A month later, Dean changed her position and introduced legislation supporting bilingual ballots, which the council approved.

Tran said the censure was retaliation for her activities and that she was not given due process in the decision.

Cobb County

In the city of Smyrna, Mayor Derek Norton, who was elected in 2019 after a four-year stint on the city council, faces two challengers. Alex Backry has run for Smyrna mayor several times before while Ken Hymes is a newcomer to politics.

Smyrna has grown significantly under Norton. Most notably under his tenure, the city approved a massive redesign of its downtown corridor, drawing some criticism and support from residents.

The mayor came under fire on social media earlier this year in the wake of a land deal with Smyrna First Baptist Church that some argued lacked transparency. Norton defended his and the council’s decisions and urged residents not to listen to “all of the rumors and misinformation on social media.”

Hymes criticized Norton’s financial decision-making in the Marietta Daily Journal and said if elected, he plans to “restore trust and transparency as well as fiscal responsibility.”

Other city mayors in Cobb County are also up for reelection, including in Kennesaw, Austell, and Powder Springs.

DeKalb County

A countywide vote will determine whether to extend two special sales taxes in DeKalb.

The county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, was first approved in 2017. The 1-cent sales tax pays for capital improvement projects throughout unincorporated DeKalb and in the cities. An additional 1-cent sales tax was approved the same year that reduces property taxes for certain homeowners, called EHOST.

Both were initially approved by wide margins but are set to expire early next year. Commissioners are seeking to extend the taxes for six more years.

SPLOST II, as the county is calling it, is expected to generate $850 million total, 58% of which will go to the county to pay for capital improvement projects. The rest is split between cities in the county.

Most of the money will go toward transportation projects — road resurfacing and the addition of sidewalks and bike paths. The county also plans to use the money to expand its beleaguered animal shelter, renovate libraries, build a new mental health facility, renovate and build new fire stations, replace government office buildings and expand park and recreation facilities.

Several cities in DeKalb could also pick new mayors.

In Brookhaven, new leadership is guaranteed because Mayor John Ernst is term-limited.

Voters in DeKalb’s largest city, Stonecrest, could also pick a new chief executive. Mayor Jazzmin Cobble is seeking re-election to her first full term. She was chosen in a special election last year that was held after the previous mayor pled guilty to stealing federal pandemic relief funds. Cobble faces a challenge from Diane Adoma, Kirby Frazier Jr., Dele Lowman and Bernard Smith Jr.

Doraville and Dunwoody voters are also voting on a bond referenda. In Doraville, a $10 million bond project, if approved, would finance library and arts projects. In Dunwoody, the $60 million proposed bond project would pay for parks and recreational areas.

Each of the 12 cities in DeKalb have council races on the ballot.

Fayette County

Two open seats on the Peachtree City Council will be up for grabs. Voters will decide between Eric Imker, Laura Plauche Johnson and Tamara Allen Moore for the city’s Post 1 seat. Suzanne Brown and Vic Painter will compete for the south metro Atlanta city’s Post 2 seat.

Fulton County

In Atlanta, voters will be picking members of the Board of Education. Five of the nine school board seats are on the ballot.

In North Fulton cities, Roswell, Milton and Johns Creek have competitive races.

Roswell has four races for city council seats. On the campaign trail, candidates are debating differences on workforce housing and density, commercial redevelopment, traffic and the controversial Historic Gateway Project which will widen Atlanta Street, also known as Ga. 9.

Meanwhile, Milton has been embroiled in controversies as it manages its municipal election for the first time instead of Fulton County.

The city replaced its elections consultant in August after firing the original consultant with little notice.

Last month, two poll workers resigned after a private meeting with Councilman Rick Mohrig raised concerns, according to City Manager Steve Krokoff.

And residents have separately voiced concerns about transparency and a low number of polling locations.

There are three City Council seats on the ballot.

Henry County

Henry County residents will decide who will serve a full four-year term as the District 2 representative. The seat was vacated in May when former Commissioner Dee Clemmons stepped down.

Former Stockbridge City Councilwoman Neat Robinson was appointed to the seat by the commission and is the incumbent. She is being challenged by Daniel Edwards Jr. and former Henry County Commissioner Bruce Holmes, who lost his District 5 seat on the board last year during a redistricting of the county commission’s map.

Gwinnett County

Voters in several Gwinnett County cities and towns will be picking new leaders.

There are competitive mayor’s races in Auburn and Lilburn.

Boards of education

In Atlanta, five of the nine school board seats are on the ballot. District 1 incumbent Katie Howard is running unopposed. District 3 incumbent Michelle Olympiadis is running against Ken Zeff. District 5 incumbent Erika Mitchell is running against Raynard Johnson. District 7 incumbent Tamara Jones is running against Alfred “Shivy” Brooks and William “Will” Sardin. District 9 incumbent Jessica Johnson is running against Nkoyo Effiong Lewis. In Decatur, incumbent board member James Herndon is running unopposed while Tracey Anderson and India Phipps Epps vie for another seat on the board.

Staff writers Taylor Croft, Adrianne Murchison, Leon Stafford and Eric Stirgus contributed to this report.