The Race for City Hall: Rittenhouse verdict reverberates in Atlanta mayor’s race

Mayoral candidate Felicia Moore talks with supporters after arriving in downtown Atlanta for a rally Saturday afternoon, Nov. 20, 2021. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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Mayoral candidate Felicia Moore talks with supporters after arriving in downtown Atlanta for a rally Saturday afternoon, Nov. 20, 2021. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

A weekly roundup of the most important things you need to know about the Atlanta mayor’s race.

Fallout from Friday’s verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case in Kenosha, Wis. had ripple effects in the Atlanta’s mayor’s race over the weekend, as turmoil surrounded a statement City Council president Felicia Moore posted and pulled down criticizing the verdict.

Both Moore and fellow mayoral runoff candidate Councilman Andre Dickens made statements staunchly denouncing the verdict after Rittenhouse was found not guilty of murder and other charges in the shooting of three men during protests last year.

“The lack of a conviction was frustrating and sadly, familiar,” Dickens said. “This verdict will only encourage armed vigilantes to roam the streets, and gun violence to flourish, whether it is in Wisconsin, or another case happening right now in our own state of Georgia.”

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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

Moore’s statement said justice was not served and that “we all know very well that if a young Black man had committed the crimes Rittenhouse had it would have been a speedy, open and shut case that ended with that Black man going to prison. We know that. We have to do better as a society.”

Moore, however, soon deleted her statement from social media. It hadn’t been well received by everyone; some in Buckhead-based Facebook groups had criticized Moore over the remarks Saturday, according to some comments we saw. (Moore has relied on support from the more conservative Northside throughout the race.)

In an updated statement later that day, Moore said she removed the post “after seeing how people were attacking each other in the comments.” She told our own Greg Bluestein that there was “a lot of vitriol” and she figured social media was not the best place to have that kind of dialogue.

But critics, including her opponent, pounced on Moore for deleting the post.

“Either you meant what you said the first time, or you’re too scared of your conservative backers that will threaten you every day that you’re in office,” Dickens told the AJC Saturday. “If you can’t stand by your decisions today, 365 days of being mayor every year, you will be backtracking every time you decide to do something.

“That was weak.”

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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 ad in the mayor’s race that appears to darken the skin of Andre Dickens is facing accusations of racism, Channel 2 Action News’ Dave Huddleston reports.

The Safer Atlanta PAC, which supports Felicia Moore, made the ad, which uses footage from a previous forum and adds darker shadows around Dickens’ face. The ad, running online and on TV, criticizes Dickens for his 2020 vote to withhold $73 million from the Atlanta police budget. As Huddleston pointed out, making skin look darker in attack ads is a move historically used to make African-Americans look dangerous.

Dickens brought up the ad during Tuesday’s Atlanta Press Club debate. Moore said she had nothing to do with it. Candidates are not allowed to coordinate with PACs.

“I don’t think having darker black skin is what I saw, but if they saw that, they need to talk with Safer Atlanta,” Moore told Channel 2.

The PAC said in a statement that Dickens is “desperately trying to deflect attention from his vote to defund the police. The photograph in question was taken directly from Mr. Dicken’s own Facebook page. It is shameful that Mr. Dickens has chosen to divide Atlanta through this false, malicious attack.”

Moore’s campaign also released a new ad last week.

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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

During Tuesday’s debate, Moore said she had in fact released her tax returns, following a challenge Dickens issued back in September asking all of the mayoral candidates to disclose their taxes. She told Dickens to “do your homework” and he would find them.

We hadn’t seen Moore’s tax returns either, so we reached out to her campaign, and were directed to the page of her website listing her past experience. The returns are linked on one bullet point under a section about jobs and economic development.

Internet archive records show the link was added to that page in November, after the general election. In 2020, Moore’s adjusted gross income was about $36,000 and her total tax amount was about $2,700.

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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

The endorsement corner:

- Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms officially came out in support of Dickens late on Friday. It was expected she would back Dickens, given that her and Moore and sparred on several issues in the past.

- Moore racked up the endorsements of DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox, the Police Benevolent Association, and NACA ― the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America.

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What’s coming up:

- The YMCA of Metro Atlanta is co-hosting mayoral runoff forum with the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta at the Andrew & Walter Young Family YMCA on Tuesday, Nov. 23 at 6:30 p.m.

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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

Have a great Thanksgiving, and feel free to send us tips and feedback at Wilborn.Nobles@ajc.com and jdcapelouto@ajc.com.