Atlanta mayoral candidates raise big money

As the race to replace Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed revs up, two candidates have sprinted to a lead in fundraising, with more than $1 million each, according to financial disclosure reports released this week.

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell reported raising $1.26 million in his nascent campaign to become the city’s next leader. Meanwhile, Peter Aman, Reed’s former chief operating officer, said he’s raised $1.039 million, with more than half of that sum coming from a loan he and his wife made to his campaign.

“The investment is a show of commitment,” Aman said of the $516,000 he gave out of pocket. “It allows me to compete with elected officials who have spent years building fundraising machines. And it shows voters that I am willing to put skin in the game.”

Aman had $774,760 cash on hand.

Mitchell said about 80 percent of his 2,000-plus donors are from the metro Atlanta area and the state. More than half — 56 percent — of the donations were for less than $250. He had $708,953 cash on hand.

“These contributions speak to the council president’s support from a diverse cross-section of Atlantans who want to see this city thrive,” a campaign spokeswoman said. “He is energized by the overwhelming support and will work hard to maintain this momentum.”

The ability to raise funds will be crucial to determining who can survive in what has become a crowded field to replace Reed, who ends his second term this year.

At least nine candidates — including former City Council President Cathy Woolard, former Atlanta Workforce Development Agency leader Michael Sterling and Atlanta City Council members Kwanza Hall, Mary Norwood and Keisha Lance Bottoms — are running.

In addition, political observers say Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves and former Atlanta City Councilman Robb Pitts may also join the fray.

In their appeals to raise funds, several of the candidates have alluded to the recent bribery allegations at City Hall.

Woolard, who raised nearly $600,000 during the filing period, said if she is elected, “there will be a zero tolerance for any corruption or unethical conduct.”

“We have to do whatever is necessary to rebuild trust and confidence in city government,” Woolard, who had $285,000 cash on hand, said in a release. “If that means we need to clean house from top to bottom, then so be it.

Atlanta contractor Elvin "E.R." Mitchell Jr. pleaded guilty in January to conspiring to commit bribery in order to obtain city construction contracts. A second contractor, Charles P. Richards Jr., of Lithonia, appeared in federal court Wednesday also on conspiracy to commit bribery charges related to Atlanta contracts.

Norwood raised $400,000 in the first 100 days of her campaign from more than 1,000 donors. Nearly 90 percent of those contributions came from individuals within the city limits, Norwood said.

“The significant grassroots support I have from voters in every part of our city is extraordinary, and I am extremely grateful,” said Norwood, who reported $343,820 in cash on hand.

State Sen. Vincent Fort reported raising $250,000, aided greatly by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' backing. Fort, who had cash on hand of $228,807, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his average donation was $37. He said voters want to create a City Hall "that focuses on regular folks and the neighborhoods they live in, not just big shots and megaprojects."

Hall, who jumped into the race two weeks ago, said he has raised about $4,000, but expects to be a contender as he gets his candidacy up and running.

“We just filed, and we have some major events coming up that we’ll be making public real soon,” Hall said, adding that he anticipates a runoff because of the number of candidates.

Bottoms has raised a little more than $400,000 and hasn’t spent any money, according to the disclosures. She got some help from Reed in arranging a fundraiser, though the mayor said his action was not an endorsement.

Sterling raised $146,869 during the filing period and had $93,265 cash on hand.

In other campaign news, the race to become the next president of the Atlanta City Council also is heating up. The three candidates are city council members C.T. Martin, Felicia Moore and Alex Wan.

Martin has raised $89,701 in his bid for the council presidency. Martin, considered the dean of the Atlanta Council, had $82,446 cash on hand.

Wan raised $85,704 during the period, with $83,961 cash on hand. He received donations from nearly 200 individuals across his largely Midtown district as well as other parts of the city.

“This early investment in me and in the future of our city is encouraging,” said Wan, who jumped in the race last month. “I’m eager to continue working on tough issues like transportation, infrastructure, affordable housing, operational efficiency, sound fiscal stewardship, public safety, individual and collective economic prosperity, and quality of life, and strong support like this will make it possible.”

Moore has raised $21,835 since announcing her candidacy Jan. 19. Moore, who has been on the council since 1997, said she was humbled by the outpouring from residents in both her district and throughout the city.

“We are gratified to see that our positive message of bringing transparency and accountability to the presidents office is resonating with Atlanta families and small businesses,” said Moore, who had not spent any of her donations according to campaign disclosures.

Greg Bluestein contributed to this report.