Race for Atlanta City Hall: Councilman Antonio Brown considering mayoral run

October 23, 2019 - Atlanta Councilman Antonio Brown. Photo by Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com

October 23, 2019 - Atlanta Councilman Antonio Brown. Photo by Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com

Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown, who pushes progressive policies as the newest member of the city’s legislative body, is considering jumping into the race for mayor this year.

Brown told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is pondering running because he thinks city policies on crime and poverty are reactionary and not focused on solving systemic issues.

“Folks keep blaming the pandemic for the rising crime, but no one talks about the root of the issue that is driven by this systemic poverty that has transpired for so long,” he said.

“Why are we such a reactive city? When do we start looking towards the future?”

If Brown decides to run this November, he would join current City Council President Felicia Moore in challenging incumbent Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is angling for her second term. Attorney Sharon Gay, who used to serve as former deputy chief of staff to former mayor Bill Campbell, also filed the legal paperwork to raise funds to run for mayor.

Brown is currently under indictment on several federal fraud charges. Prosecutors allege Brown lied about his income on applications to obtain loans and credit cards used for personal purchases years before taking office.

Brown declined to comment on the specifics of the pending case, but said in a statement through his attorneys that he is “thankful for the three amazing female attorneys who are fighting to prove my innocence. In the meantime I will continue to fight for the people of Atlanta.”

He was elected to represent a Westside Council district in 2019 in a special election following the death of longtime Councilman Ivory Lee Young. Brown won in a runoff against former Atlanta school board member Byron Amos, who had the backing of Bottoms and several other elected officials.

Since being on Council, Brown has taken on somewhat of an anti-establishment posture, advocating for progressive ideals and sometimes publicly criticizing moves made by Bottoms’ administration.

Brown stressed to the AJC that although Bottoms possesses a “disconnect in her leadership,” he’s always supported the mayor and repeatedly tries to get her to support his proposals for improving the city.

Brown proposed an ordinance to outlaw so-called “riot agents,” such as tear gas and rubber bullets, which police argue serve as essential tools that allow them to deal with unruly crowds as safely as possible. He is also close with local social justice activists and has protested police brutality and racism.

If Brown runs, he could face criticism for his relative lack of political experience. Brown dismissed that as outdated thinking and said he has been able to bring a lot to his district in just two years on Council.

Earlier this year, the City Council passed legislation introduced by Brown that would study the feasibility of creating a new city Department of Public Safety and Wellness to handle non-emergency response, police accountability and officer recruitment and morale.

With Bottoms facing challengers, this year’s mayoral race is sure to turn into a tense political fight. Over the past few weeks, rumors have swirled that former Mayor Kasim Reed is urging Brown to run, or is considering another run of his own.

Gay’s mayoral campaign did not immediately respond to comment requests on Brown’s remarks. A Bottoms’ campaign spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Moore told the AJC that she welcomes the challenge.

“The issues facing our city will encourage challengers to the mayor,” Moore said by phone of Brown’s possible candidacy. “I am the best candidate in this race, and I am working hard to share my vision of a more accountable, ethical and transparent Atlanta.”