Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown officially launches campaign for mayor

Atlanta City Councilmember Antonio Brown officially announced he is running for mayor, telling supporters Friday that he wants to reimagine public safety to empower and support the city’s marginalized communities.

Brown appeared on the steps of City Hall surrounded by supporters as he promised to provide opportunities for quality jobs and affordable housing for the city’s youth, senior citizens, the LGBTQ+ community, the working middle class, and the homeless.

“I’ve watched as our so called leaders have perpetuated a facade of a Black mecca of the South, which has resulted in generations of underserved communities, stuck in a continuous cycle of poverty,” Brown said.

“I ask you to join me as we begin the journey of reimagining Atlanta together.”

Brown entered the race days after Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced she would not seek a second term. Other candidates in the race are City Council President Felicia Moore, Councilmember Andre Dickens, and attorney Sharon Gay, who used to serve as former deputy chief of staff to former Mayor Bill Campbell.

Former Mayor Kasim Reed told Channel 2 Action News Thursday that he needs time to consider if he will run.

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In 2019, Brown was elected to represent the Westside District in a special election after the death of longtime Councilman Ivory Lee Young. Brown’s anti-establishment rhetoric secured his victory in a runoff against former Atlanta school board member Byron Amos, who had support from Bottoms and other elected officials.

Although Brown could face criticism for his relative lack of political experience, he dismissed that and said he has passed, sponsored and co-sponsored more than 60 forms of legislation in just two years on Council.

Additionally, Brown could face scrutiny because he is currently under indictment on several federal fraud charges. Prosecutors say the councilman lied about his income on applications to obtain loans and credit cards used for personal purchases. All of the alleged incidents occurred years before he won the council seat.

Brown pleaded not guilty to the charges last July. His case is still pending in federal court and he appeared in court on April 19 for a hearing.

On Friday, Brown said he is “absolutely innocent.” He said he would not be running “if I felt any concern about the outcome of this case.”

“It’s this very misconception of perfection — and lack of empathy and understanding — that has disconnected political leaders from the people who elected them,” Brown said. ”We don’t need perfect politicians. We need empathy. We need solutions, we need safer communities. We need jobs. We need affordable housing. We need vision. We need new ideas, and we need change, sweeping change.”

Brown, 36, is the first openly Black LGBTQ person ever elected to the Atlanta City Council. Known for pushing progressive policies as the newest member of the city’s legislative body, he recently passed a resolution urging the Atlanta Police Department to revise its policy that requires officers to intervene if they see a colleague violating the law or department rules.

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Brown owns an Atlanta-based luxury shoe company called LVL XIII. He created the company in late 2012 using his severance from his accounting career and position as head of finance for the Alexander Doll Company, according to his profile in 17th South Magazine. The shoe company’s reputation soared after artist Jason Derulo reached out to Brown to model the shoes in Derulo’s public appearances.

After Brown’s shoe business was launched, he became a philanthropist through his charity Dream of Humanity, which provides children with access to wraparound services and educational programs.

But life wasn’t always stellar for Brown, who is a born Jehovah’s Witness and the third of 11 children. He grew up in poverty as his parents served five years in prison. He dropped out of high school at age 15 to bag groceries to support his family and was homeless at one point.

Brown created a Small Business Entrepreneurship Program that is licensed by The Art Institute. The program provides entrepreneurial training to 30,000 college students nationwide, according to his councilmember biography. He also created Student Entrepreneurs of America, which serves 34 high schools with a summer immersion program that offers students up to 24 transferable college proficient credits for free.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter J.D. Capelouto contributed to this article.

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