The field of candidates to be the next mayor of Atlanta was set Friday, but the winner will more than likely be decided in a runoff instead of the general election.
Nine major candidates emerged from qualifying — traditionally seen as the unofficial kickoff of the campaign season — to succeed Mayor Kasim Reed, who is in the final months of his two terms in office.
The Nov. 7 election comes at a critical junction for the city, which is trying to balance tremendous growth in jobs, development and population with concerns that the divide between the haves and the have notes is growing.
The contestants — which include City Hall insiders, those who used to work for Atlanta government and a state senator — will face an electorate that is different than it was when Reed was elected in 2009. Voters also are more worried this time around about housing affordability and gentrification — not the recession Reed faced during his first term — along with the usual Atlanta problems of traffic congestion, taxes and schools.
The candidates also will campaign against a backdrop of an ongoing federal probe of alleged bribery at City Hall. The investigation has been quiet for the most part this summer, but some fear it could ignite in the middle of the race. Reed has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
William Boone, an associate professor of political science at Clark-Atlanta University, said any revelations linking the investigation to specific office seekers would most likely clear the crowded deck.
“(Those candidates) may decide to rethink their decision,” Boone said of anyone ensnared in the probe.
Demographics may make it easier for Atlanta to elect its first white mayor in four decades. The large number of African American candidates could split the black vote just as Atlanta’s ratio of white voters has reached around 44 percent, the experts said.
“There are many, many people who want to see (black mayoral leadership) continue at least symbolically,” said Harvey Newman, professor emeritus at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. “And yet none of the African-American candidates are willing to concede to any of the others … and everybody just forges ahead.
“The ultimate irony would be if that resulted in the emergence of two white candidates in the runoff pool,” he said.
The mayoral candidates include state Sen. Vincent Fort, Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, former Atlanta Workforce Development Agency director Michael T. Sterling and former Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves.
In addition, Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall, Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard and former city of Atlanta COO Peter Aman qualified.
The remaining mayoral candidates are Rohit Ammanamanchi, Laban King, Carl A. Jackson and Glenn S. Wrightson.
The candidates who qualified for Atlanta City Council President are Felicia Moore, Alex Wan and C.T. Martin.
In the city council race, 30 people qualified to run for six seats vacated by the decisions of Hall, Bottoms, and Norwood to run for mayor and by Moore, Wan, and Martin to seek promotion to council president. City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean also is vacating her seat. Each of the remaining city councilmembers also qualified and all have challengers except Andre Dickens.
There are 16 Atlanta City Councilmembers, including the Council President.
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