The Race for City Hall: Dickens vs. Moore, the closing arguments

November 2, 2021 Atlanta: Voters surge the machine first thing in the morning at Park Tavern located at 500 10th Street NE in Atlanta on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Normally, a wide-open vote for Atlanta mayor would take center stage in the metro area on Election Day. But low early turnout, a high number of undecided voters, and major competition for attention from Game Six of the World Series could scramble the outcome. Voting began Tuesday morning in elections for Atlanta mayor and city leaders across Georgia as voters hoped for short lines and no problems. Election Day will be closely watched in Fulton County, which covers most of the city of Atlanta. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

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November 2, 2021 Atlanta: Voters surge the machine first thing in the morning at Park Tavern located at 500 10th Street NE in Atlanta on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Normally, a wide-open vote for Atlanta mayor would take center stage in the metro area on Election Day. But low early turnout, a high number of undecided voters, and major competition for attention from Game Six of the World Series could scramble the outcome. Voting began Tuesday morning in elections for Atlanta mayor and city leaders across Georgia as voters hoped for short lines and no problems. Election Day will be closely watched in Fulton County, which covers most of the city of Atlanta. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

The day before Election Day it’s all about turnout for the mayoral campaigns

The almost year-long saga to pick Atlanta next mayor’s comes to a close Tuesday, capping off a busy runoff period that saw candidates Andre Dickens and Felicia Moore circle the city for votes and seek to differentiate themselves through debates and public appearances.

The post-Thanksgiving weekend was jam-packed, with the candidates holding meet-and-greets and canvassing events across Atlanta. For the campaigns, it’s now all about turnout — getting enough people to tune in after a holiday and turn out to the polls on Election Day.

According to GeorgiaVotes.com, nearly 30,000 people voted early in the Atlanta runoff. We embedded with both campaigns for a day during the final stretch of the runoff to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the final push for votes.

ExploreA behind the scenes look at the Atlanta mayor’s race

Dickens and Moore made their closing arguments at a lively Saturday forum held in the style of a Verzuz battle. It was a creative format: The candidates chose songs that aligned with different issues and categories, and then answered questions about that topic. For example, Moore chose “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy to introduce the social justice category. Dickens chose “Yeah!” by Usher for the Atlanta culture section. You can watch the battle, put on by the Atlanta NAACP and several other groups, on Facebook.

We’ve got you covered with more of what you need to know before heading to the polls, and stay tuned to AJC.com Tuesday for full coverage of the election results.

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Atlanta mayoral runoff candidates Felicia Moore and Andre Dickens answer questions from AJC reporters. Video by Ryon Horne and Tyson Horne

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A new 11Alive SurveyUSA Poll has Moore with a 46% to 40% lead over Dickens. Among the 59% who said they are certain to vote, Moore’s lead was 5 points.

Among the 13% of respondents who said they will probably vote, Dickens has the nominal lead, 35% to 30%. The poll suggests Dickens can win the race if he motivates enough “probable” voters to go to the polls Tuesday. 14% of voters were undecided.

The AJC and Channel 2 Action News last week released a poll showing Dickens at 42.6% and Moore at 37.2%. That poll was conducted Nov. 11-19 by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs.

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Atlanta Mayoral candidate Felicia Moore poses for a photo while arriving in downtown Atlanta for a women’s rally Saturday afternoon, Nov. 20, 2021. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Atlanta Mayoral candidate Felicia Moore poses for a photo while arriving in downtown Atlanta for a women’s rally Saturday afternoon, Nov. 20, 2021. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

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Atlanta Mayoral candidate Felicia Moore poses for a photo while arriving in downtown Atlanta for a women’s rally Saturday afternoon, Nov. 20, 2021. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

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City Councilmember-elect Mary Norwood isn’t running in the mayoral race, but she has now become a factor in the runoff.

In a column for Saporta Report, John Ruch looked into Norwood’s move to privately hire a company to monitor the election for voting problems. Allies of Dickens’ campaign is using Norwood’s involvement in a 2020 “Kraken” election lawsuit to associate Moore with former President Donald Trump due to Moore’s cordial relationship with Norwood.

Vincent Fort, a Dickens campaign consultant and former state senator, sought to connect Moore with Norwood in public posts made to his social media pages on Nov. 24. He also painted Moore as being aligned with racists and Trump supporters.

“She’s doubling down on her collaboration with bigots,” Fort said to the AJC.

Moore has called the Dickens’ campaigns attacks “ridiculous,” saying as recently as last Friday that Dickens is trying to get Black voters not to vote for her.

“Black voters are smarter than that,” Moore said. “I didn’t all of a sudden become all of these lies that have been spread about me.”

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Atlanta mayoral runoff candidates Felicia Moore and Andre Dickens answer questions from AJC reporters. Video by Ryon Horne and Tyson Horne

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Speaking of attacks, Moore went on the offensive last Friday to condemn the Dickens campaign for accusing a PAC of darkening his skin tone in an ad.

The Safer Atlanta PAC, which supports Moore, made an ad that appears to add darker shadows around Dickens’ face. The ad ran online and on TV to criticize Dickens for his 2020 vote to withhold $73 million from the Atlanta police budget.

As Channel 2 Action News’ Dave Huddleston pointed out, making skin look darker in attack ads is a move historically used to make African-Americans look dangerous.

But Moore stood with several Black female leaders at the Hillside Chapel & Truth Center on Cascade Road on Friday to declare that “Dickens’ claims reveal that he believes dark skin is a bad thing.”

“Deacon Dickens, as an HBCU graduate, dark-skinned woman with natural hair, I am here to tell you that all shades of Black are beautiful,” she said.

Moore said the Dickens campaign created a flier that misleadingly juxtaposed the attack ad image with a different photo of Dickens to make it appear as if the image had been majorly altered, calling the tactics “a total outright lie.”

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Atlanta mayoral runoff candidates Felicia Moore and Andre Dickens answer questions from AJC reporters. Video by Ryon Horne and Tyson Horne

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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has endorsed Dickens for mayor, saying she supports Dickens’ plan to combat crime because it is in “lockstep” with her policies, our AJC colleague Greg Bluestein reported.

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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Councilman Andre Dickens.

Credit: Greg Bluestein

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Councilman Andre Dickens.

Credit: Greg Bluestein

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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Councilman Andre Dickens.

Credit: Greg Bluestein

Credit: Greg Bluestein

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The candidates reacted to the verdict in the trial for the three men found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. Dickens and Moore each expressed their condolences to Arbery’s family in separate statements.

“I take solace in knowing that the Arbery family has finally received vindication, and that in this instance, the justice system worked,” Dickens said.

Moore said: “I look forward to the day when a person can jog without fear of losing their life. I pray for the day when parents can live without fear when their children are out of their sight.”

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