Runoff voters to decide local leaders across metro Atlanta

Four cities aside from Atlanta have mayoral runoffs, and nine council seats are up for grabs
A box of mail-in ballots will be recorder by Fulton County employees as they continue to count mail-in ballots the day after the Georgia primary election at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)



A box of mail-in ballots will be recorder by Fulton County employees as they continue to count mail-in ballots the day after the Georgia primary election at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Residents in several metro Atlanta cities have the option to reelect incumbents — many of whom are entwined in controversy — or vote for their challengers during Tuesday’s runoffs.

Runoffs are taking place in Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fayette, Fulton and Gwinnett counties, giving voters one last chance to finalize their city’s leadership. Many of those races proceeded to a runoff after tight or dead-heat general elections. Runoff elections are required in Georgia for races in which no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the general election.

In Stonecrest, incumbent Councilman Jimmy Clanton Jr. is trying to fend off challenger Tara Graves to represent the city’s District 1. Clanton said his reputation has been marred by his close relationship to Mayor Jason Lary, who was recently arraigned on federal charges related to an alleged scheme to steal pandemic relief funds.

“There’s no connection between myself and the misconduct at City Hall on any level at any point that I’ve been with the City of Stonecrest,” Clanton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the general election results were tallied. “I just want to clarify that and say it’s guilt by association.”

In a three-candidate race, Clanton received 38% of the vote, lagging behind Graves who got 42%. She said residents are looking for change.

“I think a lot of people are disappointed with how the city is being run currently,” she previously told the AJC. “I do think some people voted because they’re ready for change.”

Historically, runout is low during runoff elections, especially when there isn’t a high-profile race on the ballot. During the early voting period, 157 ballots were cast in-person in Stonecrest — the most populous city in DeKalb with nearly 60,000 residents. The council runoff is the only race on the ballot, with only residents in District 1 casting votes.

Tucker, which has its own heated council runoff, has had slightly better turnout so far with 411 in-person ballots cast. Imani Barnes, a staunchly progressive candidate, is running against Cara Schroeder, who said she’s running a nonpartisan campaign. It’s the last election in a busy year for Tucker that resulted in many new elected officials, albeit not progressive candidates backed by the county’s Democratic party.

The last of a series of contested races in Marietta will also end with a runoff. Reginald Copeland, the current Ward 5 councilman, faces off against M. Carlyle Kent. County Democrats have backed Kent in hopes of electing a more progressive candidate to Marietta’s leadership. The party unsuccessfully tried to unseat longtime mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin.

In nearby Roswell, voters ousted their mayor, and they have one more councilmember to finalize. Newcomers Will Morthland and Michael Dal Cerro are running to stabilize the city after the former administration botched and overbudgeted the Oxbo Road project. Partisan politics has played less of a role in their runoff, the candidates previously told the AJC.

Mayoral races on the southside are also attracting attention. Forest Park Mayor Angelyne Butler faces off with former councilman Thomas Smith after the general election ended in a near dead-heat. Butler received five more votes than Smith.

Butler, the city’s first Black mayor, has had issues with former Forest Park police officers, both Black and white, who filed lawsuits against the city claiming they were victims of racism in the workplace. Butler and other city leaders have denied all allegations of firing people over their race.

In Fairburn, current mayor Elizabeth Carr-Hurst faces off with former mayor Mario Avery, who nearly won the general election outright with 49% of the vote. Carr-Hurst, who received 35%, received criticism for continuing to require city workers to report to their regular work sites amid the COVID-19 pandemic despite most cities allowing employees to work from home.

South Fulton Mayor William “Bill” Edwards” is also trying to stave off former councilman Khalid Kamau in a runoff. Edwards, the city’s first mayor, received 44% of the vote in the general election followed by Kamau’s 29%.

Metro Atlanta runoff elections

Duluth Council Post 4: Manfred Graeder, Brandon Odum

Fairburn Mayor: Mario Avery, Elizabeth Carr-Hurst (i)

Forest Park Mayor: Angelyne Butler (i), Thomas Smith

Marietta Council Ward 5: Reginald Copeland (i), Carlyle Kent

Milton Council District 1, Post 1: Jami Tucker, Andrea Verhoff

Peachtree City Mayor: Kim Learnard, Eric Imker

Peachtree City Council Post 4: Phil Crane, Frank Destadio

Roswell Council Post 5: Michael Dal Cerro, Will Morthland

South Fulton Mayor: William “Bill” Edwards (i), Khalid Kamau

South Fulton Council District 4: Naeema Gilyard (i), Jaceey Sebastian

Stonecrest Council District 1: Jimmy Clanton (i), Tara Graves

Suwanee Council Post 5: Pete Charpentier (i), David Martinez

Tucker Council District 2: Imani Barnes, Cara Schroeder