Atlanta, metro-area voters head to the polls today to choose city’s next leaders

Atlanta voters head to the polls at 7 a.m. today to vote for mayor, City Council and school board.  (Alyssa Pointer / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution file photo)
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Atlanta voters head to the polls at 7 a.m. today to vote for mayor, City Council and school board. (Alyssa Pointer / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution file photo)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Atlanta voters head to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots and decide the city’s mayor, City Council and school board, following a historic election cycle that saw a crowded field of candidates jockey for position and argue they are best fit to lead City Hall for the next four years.

The outcome of the election will set the course for how the city tackles several pressing issues, such as increased violent crime; a lack of affordable housing; the coronavirus pandemic; and the push for Buckhead to become its own city. This is also the first major election in Georgia since the passing of the state’s expansive voting law changes.

A total of 14 candidates are on the ballot to replace Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who isn’t seeking reelection. The five candidates polling at the top of the field are City Councilman Antonio Brown, Councilman Andre Dickens, attorney Sharon Gay, City Council President Felicia Moore, and former Mayor Kasim Reed.

ExploreExclusive AJC poll: Reed and Moore continue to lead in mayor’s race, but heap of voters still undecided

The race started off slowly, with the incumbent mayor beginning the year with a relatively small campaign war chest. Moore jumped into the race in January, challenging Bottoms, whom she served with on the council for eight years and with whom she hasn’t always seen eye to eye. Gay jumped into the race in April, as Bottoms’ fundraising efforts increased.

Around that time, rumors were swirling that Reed was thinking about entering the race. He said in an April 28 radio interview that he didn’t plan to run for mayor, but said crime and violence were at “unacceptable levels.

Everything changed on May 7, when Bottoms made the surprise announcement that she wouldn’t seek a second term. Within a month, Brown, Dickens, and Reed had all launched campaigns.

No easy task

The next mayor will take on the challenge of reducing violent crime in Atlanta. Crime and policing dominated the mayor’s race, as each candidate pitched why they are best-suited to restore public safety.

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Race to City Hall: Mayor candidates discuss how their policies will be unique

Almost all the major candidates want to hire a new police chief and more officers, but they have different goals for how many cops they want. Reed wants to hire 750 officers, and Dickens wants 250 officers in his first year. Moore wants to give incentives to hire at least 200 officers in 100 days.

The mayoral candidates also vowed to focus on better police training, community policing, and restoring trust between police and the community.

The 61st mayor will also influence discussions about zoning, affordable housing, infrastructure, transit and the future of the city jail.

City Hall’s second-highest position is also on this year’s ballot. The Council President candidates are City Councilwoman Natalyn Mosby Archibong, former school board member Courtney English, businessman Doug Shipman, Sam Manuel, and Mike Russell.

ExploreInteractive: How Atlanta's neighborhoods are funding the mayoral candidates

Atlanta’s 15-member council will also look different in January. Most of the incumbents have challengers, who include several progressive candidates looking to upend the status quo on issues of policing and criminal justice.

Additionally, all nine seats on the Atlanta Board of Education are up for election this year. Six incumbents are among the 22 candidates who qualified to appear on the ballot.

Atlanta isn’t the only city with a hot mayoral election. Residents of suburban enclaves, many Republican, across metro Atlanta for the first time in a while have a viable Democrat to consider.

Rusty Paul, the two-term Sandy Springs mayoral and established GOP politico, is facing a challenge from former Fulton Democratic official Dontaye Carter. And in nearby Johns Creek, GOP-supported John Bradberry faces former council member Brian Weaver.

Democrats are also making for interesting contests in Roswell and Dacula. But candidates left of center are also challenging Democrats. Nick Ferrante, the only non-retiree running for mayor in Peachtree City, has Libertarian leanings. He has been labeled as a socialist in heavily Republican Fayette County. And then there’s actual Democrat Socialist and South Fulton City Councilman Khalid Kamau, who is among the three challenging incumbent Mayor Bill Edwards.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Ben Brasch contributed to this article. Thanks for reading, and as always, send us any feedback or story tips at jdcapelouto@ajc.com and wilborn.nobles@ajc.com.

The Atlanta mayoral runoff election

The Atlanta mayor’s race will require a runoff election on Nov. 30 between Felicia Moore and a Andre Dickens. A number of other metro area races will also require runoffs.

TUESDAY, Nov 16: Mayoral runoff election debate live stream on AJC.com

The 7 p.m. event featuring candidates Andre Dickens and Felicia Moore will be hosted by The Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk-Young Debate Series, in partnership with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit the debate page on ajc.com to watch the a replay.

AJC Voter Guide: What metro Atlanta voters need to know about the Nov. 30 runoff

ATLANTA: THE RACE FOR CITY HALL How Andre Dickens and Felicia Moore are differentiating themselves

ELSEWHERE: Several mayoral, council races proceed to runoffs in metro Atlanta

FULL COVERAGE of the Atlanta mayoral election


WILBORN NOBLES III

Wilborn P. Nobles III covers the Atlanta mayor's policies for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Wil (not "Willie" or "William") previously covered Baltimore County government at The Baltimore Sun, but he never finished "The Wire." He also covered education for the Times-Picayune in his hometown of New Orleans, so he tries to avoid discussions about football. Wil used to play tuba for his high school marching band, but he eventually put down his horn to intern at The Washington Post. The Louisiana State University graduate enjoys gardening, comedy, and music.

Wilborn.Nobles@ajc.com

J.D. CAPELOUTO

J.D. Capelouto is a local news reporter covering City Hall and all things intown Atlanta for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His work focuses the City Council, neighborhood issues, public safety, housing and transportation. J.D. was born and raised in Atlanta and has lived in the city all his life, except for four years at Boston University, where he studied journalism and learned how to dress for cold weather. He’s been with the AJC since 2018, and has previously written for The Boston Globe and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. When he’s not reporting or scrolling through Twitter, J.D. enjoys pop culture podcasts, “Survivor” and visiting various pools around Atlanta.

Joseph.Capelouto@ajc.com