Campaign cash funds heated Atlanta schools election

In your schools

Seven of nine seats are contested in the Nov. 5 Atlanta school board election and the stakes have never been higher. One of the first tasks of the new board will be to pick a new superintendent for the 50,000-student district still reeling from cheating revelations. In the coming weeks, AJC reporters will tell you more about the candidates for school board and the issues shaping the election.

Campaign cash flowed to Atlanta school board candidates who raised a combined $667,446 for an election that will shake up the city’s education leadership, according to their finance reports.

Money came from donors including Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, executives with Cousins Properties, lawyers, homemakers and many small contributors who gave less than $100 each.

The Nov. 5 election will bring a major transformation to the school board because four of its nine members aren’t seeking re-election. The new school board will be responsible for picking Atlanta’s next leader early next year as Superintendent Erroll Davis plans to retire.

The biggest fund-raiser was Mark Riley, one of five competitors in a citywide District 8 race. Riley, a former school board member and real estate developer, brought in $113,437 in an effort to win back a seat from incumbent Reuben McDaniel. Outside contributions to Riley totaled $98,725 after subtracting a $14,712 loan to his campaign.

Riley more than doubled the donations received by investment banker and board Chairman McDaniel, whose contributions amounted to $49,444 through Sept. 30. His donations amounted to $36,944 after accounting for a $12,500 loan.

In the same race, attorney Tom Tidwell raised $59,195, and attorney Cynthia Briscoe Brown’s contributions totaled $13,951. A fifth candidate, Dave Walker, didn’t electronically file a campaign disclosure.

Campaign filings through Sept. 30 were required to be submitted online or postmarked by midnight Monday.

  • In another citywide race, incumbent Courtney English raised $74,614, compared with challenger Nisha Simama's $54,912. English, a former social studies teacher, and Simama, a counselor and former interim school board member, are competing for the at-large District 7 seat.
  • In east Atlanta District 1, incumbent Brenda Muhammad and challenger Leslie Grant were nearly even in fundraising. Muhammad, a director for a crime victim nonprofit organization, raised $69,389 compared to $62,683 brought in by Grant, a small business owner.
  • In north Atlanta District 4, challenger Taryn Chilivis Bowman raised $12,149, slightly more than the $11,970 taken in by incumbent Nancy Meister. But Bowman's cash includes a $5,000 loan, leaving her remaining contributions at $7,149. Bowman is a film consultant, and Meister is a residential real estate agent.
  • In southeast Atlanta District 6, former elementary school teacher Eshe Collins collected $42,907, leading a field of four candidates. Education advocate Shawnna Hayes-Tavares raised $12,371, but no campaign finance filings were posted online for property manager Dell Byrd or retired teacher Anne Wofford McKenzie. Byrd's campaign said its amounts weren't displayed because she filed by mail instead of online, and that she had raised about $14,000 total and $6,925 after subtracting a personal loan. McKenzie didn't return a phone call.
  • In citywide District 9, attorney Jason Esteves led the pack with contributions reaching $47,647. Sean Norman, the president of Web app company WillAppoint, gained $11,450, substitute teacher Eddie Lee Brewster collected $1,750 and businessman Ed Johnson reported receiving no contributions.
  • In west Atlanta District 5, community program director Steven Lee raised $9,250, including a $2,500 loan, retired technology professional Mary Louise Palmer brought in $6,750 and real estate broker Charles Lawrence reported $794. Software developer Raynard Johnson had collected $5,840 through June, but an updated report wasn't available. Kathy Green, whose occupation isn't known, also didn't have a campaign fundraising report displayed online.

Two other candidates are running for office without opposition. They are central Atlanta District 2 incumbent Byron Amos, who raised $4,385, and newcomer Matt Westmoreland, a high school history teacher who brought in $35,960 to represent east Atlanta District 3.

Campaign finance reports can be viewed online at the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission's website