Moore advances to Atlanta mayoral runoff; Dickens leads Reed by 600 votes

Mayoral candidate and City Council President Felicia Moore speaks to reporters during an election night party Tuesday. (Daniel Varnado/ For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Mayoral candidate and City Council President Felicia Moore speaks to reporters during an election night party Tuesday. (Daniel Varnado/ For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

It wasn’t a huge surprise when Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore clinched a spot late Tuesday in the runoff election for the Atlanta mayor’s race.

The drama came a few hours later, when an early Wednesday update from a handful of DeKalb County precincts pushed Councilman Andre Dickens ahead of former Mayor Kasim Reed, for a coveted second spot in the Nov. 30 election.

All results are still unofficial, but Moore took a commanding lead early in the night that she never relinquished. Reed consistently led Dickens, but the two-term councilman whittled away at that lead and apparently overcame it when the final precincts reported their tallies.

The Associated Press declared that Moore qualified for the runoff about midnight Wednesday. Dickens declared himself the winner over Reed about 1 a.m.

“They said our campaign was over. They said my council career was dead. But you know what we did? We fought every single day for city. ... So be careful. Be very careful of counting us out again,” he told supporters early Wednesday.

Reed, who was seeking a historic third term as mayor, ended his night without conceding.

Candidates Sharon Gay and Councilman Antonio Brown lagged far behind the leaders.

Atlanta Councilman and mayoral candidate Andre Dickens visits the WSB studios early Wednesday after declaring he had secured a runoff spot in the Atlanta mayor's race. (John Spink/AJC)

Credit: John Spink

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Credit: John Spink

Dickens had struggled with low name recognition in early polls, but sought to win over voters who were late to make a decision in the mayor’s race.

“I ended up convincing a large number of people to go from undecided to making a decision to choose me as their candidate for mayor,” he told Channel 2 Action News on Wednesday morning. “Folks started to pay attention in October and I’m glad they did.”

Results show Moore dominated on the Northside and performed well on the Eastside. Reed took the majority of precincts on the Westside and Southside, but Dickens took enough votes away from Reed in southwest Atlanta and did better than the former mayor on the Eastside to slide into second place.

Moore entered her campaign watch party for the first time shortly before 10 p.m. as supporters chanted “Atlanta deserves Moore.” She said she was optimistic about the early returns.

“These people have put their heart and soul and time and money and prayers toward a new Atlanta – an Atlanta where everyone is going to feel safe, an Atlanta where when you spend your money for taxes and services, you’re going to get an Atlanta that’s accountable, it’s going to be ethical and it’s going to be the most transparent in this country,” she said.

“I’m confident people have heard our message of change,” Moore said.

Reed thanked his supporters around midnight and said he is still waiting for the final results to come in.

“When we started this journey more than 140 days ago, I said it would be worth it,” Reed said. “I didn’t say that it would be easy. And so we are upstairs counting votes and listening and checking on our precincts and doing the work.”

After a dizzying amount of last-minute get-out-the-vote appearances, candidates gathered with their supporters at parties across the city Tuesday as election results started to trickle in after polls closed at 8 p.m. Turnout was “light and steady” throughout the day, Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron said.

Election Day started with 14 people on the ballot for the nonpartisan mayor’s race. Voters also chose City Council and school board members.

Moore and Reed both held election night parties at downtown hotels, while Dickens supporters gathered at a rooftop venue on Auburn Avenue. Gay’s supporters gathered at Manuel’s Tavern as the Braves World Series game played on the TVs.

People start arriving at the election night celebration night at the Hyatt Regency hotel to support Kasim Reed. Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Gay thanked her supporters and said it was disappointing that voter turnout this year was low.

”I think people in Georgia were just sort of exhausted with voting,” Gay said.

Antonio Brown, the city councilman who was among the first to jump into the mayor’s race after Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ended her reelection bid, gathered with a few members of his team at an apartment down the hall from his own in an Atlantic Station tower.

“I was telling someone earlier I feel like a big kid in a candy store,” Brown said. “And I think whatever is meant to happen, it’s already decided.”

In the race for Atlanta City Council president, Doug Shipman, Natalyn Mosby Achibong and Courtney English were in a close three-way contest that also appears headed to a runoff. Runoffs also seemed to be on the horizon for longtime incumbent councilmembers Cleta Winslow and Joyce Sheperd, facing off against challengers Jason Dozier and Antonio Lewis, respectively.

Incumbent councilmembers Michael Julian Bond, Matt Westmoreland, Dustin Hillis, Andrea Boone and Marci Collier Overstreet all appeared to hold onto their seats. Former Councilman Alex Wan seemed to have enough of the vote in his Eastside district to secure a return to council. He joins former councilwoman and mayoral candidate Mary Norwood, who ran unopposed for a Buckhead district, in making a council comeback.

The races for District 1 and 3, and the Post 3 At-Large seat all seem headed for runoffs.

In a race that has centered around crime and policing in Atlanta, voters across the city said public safety, development and city services are top issues that brought them out to the polls Tuesday.

Staff reporters Greg Bluestein, Maya Prabhu, Jeremy Redmon, Tyler Estep, Tamar Hallerman, Andy Peters, Leon Stafford and Anjali Huynh contributed to this report.