Fulton elections chair resigns, qualifies for Atlanta council seat

Former Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan is sworn in via Zoom on Thursday, March 11, 2021 as the newest member and chairman of the Fulton County elections board. (Screenshot)

Former Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan is sworn in via Zoom on Thursday, March 11, 2021 as the newest member and chairman of the Fulton County elections board. (Screenshot)

The chair of the Fulton County elections board has resigned after five months in the role, and qualified to run for a seat on Atlanta City Council.

Alex Wan — who in 2009 became the first Asian American politician to win a city council seat — told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he resigned early Thursday morning.

He leaves as the elections board enters uncharted territory. A review is set to start that could end with the state installing its own leadership to manage elections in the Democrat-run county.

Wan qualified for the District 6 seat hours after he resigned. The seat’s current occupant, Jennifer Ide, announced Monday that she would not seek re-election.

County commissioners seemed surprised to hear Wan had decided to run for council when Commissioner Natalie Hall mentioned it Wednesday night during a meeting.

Asked whether he had intentions of running when he took the elections chair job, Wan told the AJC: “Political landscapes are always changing, as evidenced by the surprise announcement by Councilmember Jennifer Ide on Monday of this week. I had no plans to run for this seat during this cycle, but that development created an unexpected opportunity that led to my decision to run.”

Fulton Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said Thursday he isn’t worried about losing his elections board chair 75 days before Election Day because most of the operational plans are in place. Training for poll workers begins Wednesday.

Wan, an entrepreneur who identifies as gay, served as chair of the finance/executive committee during his eight years as District 6 councilman.

So far, two people — Justin Critz and Courtney Jenee DeDi — have also qualified to run for the seat.

District 6 covers much of Intown and Northeast Atlanta, like Midtown along with Virginia-Highlands and Morningside. The area had one of the highest turnouts among the council districts in the 2017 election.

Wan stepped down to run for council president in 2017. Felicia Moore got 658 more votes than Wan in the general election — with the rest being split by the now-late C.T. Martin. In the runoff, Moore beat Wan by 10,000 votes.

Since 2017, Wan said he has served on the Atlanta Regional Commission Board, the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Council and then the elections board.

In 2020, Wan ran in the Democratic primary for House District 57 and lost to former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Evans.

Focus on improvement

As elections chair, Wan tried to ensure everyone focused on how to improve elections management, asking department leaders to create timelines and charts about when certain goals would be achieved.

Pitts nominated Wan in March because former chair Mary Carole Cooney resigned due to a prolonged illness.

At the time, Pitts said, Wan had no intentions of running for office.

“Public service is in his blood, and he made a decision he can serve more as a member of the Atlanta City Council,” Pitts said Thursday.

The chairman must now select another prospective chair, which is subject to a vote from all seven commissioners. Pitts said he still has the short list of people from when he selected Wan. The chairman declined to name who was on the list but said he would likely be able to do so in about a week.

Pitts said he wasn’t worried about finding someone to fill the role even as the state appears to be closing in on the board.

The GOP-led General Assembly passed Senate Bill 202 months after the 2020 election cycle ended. Included in the bill’s 98 pages are provisions allowing the state to remove a county’s elections board following a review and install a temporary superintendent of elections.

The state elections board Wednesday named the review panel members, another step toward what would be a historical takeover of county elections.

Pitts, who has held multiple press conferences rebuking a state takeover, said he doesn’t think the effort will succeed — possibly because Fulton may sue.

The AJC asked Pitts if he would make sure his next elections chair candidate doesn’t run for office.

“A person that I’m talking with may not have any immediate plans to run, but who knows what the future holds,” he said.

Staff writer J.D. Capelouto contributed to this story.

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