On the winding staircase inside Tyrese Gibson’s massive Buckhead mansion, former Mayor Kasim Reed launched a comeback bid with these words:
“Tell L.A., tell New York, tell Charlotte, tell Dallas, tell Chicago and definitely tell Miami: I’m back.”
Beside him was his 7-year-old daughter Maria. Behind him was his mother. As Reed spoke, a tuxedo-clad Gibson took a selfie. Afterward, DJ D-Nice spun for a jam-packed crowd.
One source told City Hall correspondent J.D. Capelouto the former mayor raised more than $500,000 at his birthday bash for his comeback bid. Gibson reported on his Instagram page the total topped $600,000 in 48 hours and added a caption for his 14.2 million followers: “Say his name MAYOR KASIM REED!!!!!!!”
Either way, it appeared to rival the haul that incumbent Keisha Lance Bottoms raised from a fundraiser hosted by President Joe Biden before she opted against running for a second term.
It was a show of force for a former mayor who, despite the lingering cloud of a federal corruption probe hovering over his first two terms in office, is viewed as the instant frontrunner in the wide-open race.
Several attendees told us they were surprised by the sheer size of the crowd gathered in Gibson’s estate, where attendees dined on shrimp and chicken and took pictures with an oversized Transformer autobot. Jeezy watched from a balcony as attendees snapped photos of the rapper wearing a scarlet suit.
One supporter described it as an “emotionally cathartic return.” Another summed it up this way: “It’s all about crime. It’s the only issue.” And another: “It was lit.”
Among the local bigwigs spotted were entrepreneur Paul Judge, financier Ryan Glover, music producer Chris Hicks, attorney Robert Highsmith and restaurateur Pinky Cole. Other faces in the crowd included Fulton County Sheriff Pat LaBat and Fulton Commission chair Rob Pitts.
We’ve told you about his potential to appeal to Atlanta’s Republican voters, who don’t have an easy fit with any of the contenders. In attendance were two top aides to former Gov. Nathan Deal, who had a tight alliance with Reed: Chris Riley, Deal’s longtime top aide, and Ryan Teague, his executive counsel.
Reed’s remarks signaled what everyone in the room already knew. He is going to focus his campaign on a law-and-order message to combat rising crime rates plaguing the city. At one point, he lamented how women shouldn’t have to drive around on low tanks of gas because they’re afraid to fill up at night.
He also assailed the idea of Buckhead cityhood and promoted himself as someone who can remake the “Atlanta miracle” of a biracial coalition that powered the city’s economic growth.
“Our job is to restore our sense of community, to repair this breach,“ Reed said. “During this COVID situation folks all around Atlanta, because we were still open, felt that the city of Atlanta was a playground. A place where you could come from anywhere in the United States and of America and engage in all kinds of foolishness. Well, I’m here to tell you tonight, that foolishness is going to stop.”
Surveying his supporters, Reed said he was ready for a tough campaign: “Clearly, I’m built for it.”
He’d better get ready. His entry means the other four top candidates -- Councilmembers Antonio Brown and Andre Dickens; attorney Sharon Gay and Council President Felicia Moore -- will all relentlessly target him, not to mention the rivals and adversaries he picked up during his first two terms as mayor.
Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin posted a not-so cryptic message on her Instagram page targeting Reed.
“Atlanta has gone crazy if we are considering going backwards politically speaking,” she wrote. “Time to go forward. Honesty and transparency are essential for good government. I can’t compromise on integrity. Dump bullies. Dump those who lie. Dump those who are self indulgent. Integrity matters.”
Today’s digital edition of the AJC leads with the major increase in violent crime across Atlanta, including the 60% jump in homicides, with many claiming the lives of children.
Shaddi Abusaid has more details on the victims and the data that shows why Kasim Reed and the other candidates for mayor are so focused on the issue:
Atlanta police have investigated 64 homicide cases in 2021, a 58% increase over this time last year. The surge follows a historically deadly 2020, when authorities investigated 157 homicide cases — the most in more than two decades.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has referred to the spike in violence as a “COVID crime wave," but the city's death toll continues to mount as more Georgians get vaccinated and life returns to normal. As of June, Atlanta's murders are up and shootings have increased by 40%, according to the latest data. Meanwhile, overall arrests are down by by about 43% as Atlanta's police force remains about 400 officers below what's budgeted.
The full story is an important read.
Democratic state Rep. Erick Allen picked up a notable endorsement on Friday in his race for lieutenant governor. Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson backed his bid for Georgia’s No. 2 job, picking him over state Rep. Derrick Jackson in the Democratic primary field.
Some of Tomlinson’s supporters wanted her to run for lieutenant governor after her second-place finish in the race for U.S. Senate last year. The endorsement obviously closes the book on that idea.
Whoever wins the nomination will face a tough GOP opponent. Butch Miller, a powerful state legislator, has already announced. State Sen. Burt Jones is expected to enter the race soon, and activist Jeanne Seaver is also running.
We’re still more than a year away from the 2022 primaries, but candidates are already pushing out digital ads and longer form videos to make an early splash against their rivals.
Mike Collins is out with his first ad, days after he announced his race to replace Jody Hice in the 10th Congressional district. Collins starts the ad with a seriously dangerous balancing act between two trucks and ends sending a message for Donald Trump, giving Trump the call sign, “Mogul.”
Secretary of state hopeful David Belle Isle launched a video featuring someone who looks like Charlie Daniels’ long-lost cousin singing about Brad Raffensperger.
Belle Isle is making the Trump-fueled “Stop the Steal” theme the central focus of his race to oversee Georgia’s elections-- despite a tax-payer funded hand recount, machine recount, and signature audit that all upheld the results of Georgia’s 2020 election.
The AJC’s J.D. Capelouto has a profile of Bill White, the New York transplant and chairman and CEO of the Buckhead City Committee. White is leading the effort to raise at least $1.5 million by April to make the case to carve a new City of Buckhead out of the city of Atlanta.
So far, Buckhead residents in favor of the movement have shelled out $550,000 to support the organization.
That’s because only two of the state’s eight Republican lawmakers, U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter and Barry Loudermilk, requested funding for roads, bridges and other projects in their districts. The remaining six GOP members sat out of the process, apparently in opposition to earmarks in general. We asked most of their offices for comment and didn’t get a response.
The six Democrats, along with Carter and Loudermilk, have requested funding for 39 projects in all. All of them are part of the larger $547 billion package that is slated for a vote on the House floor later this month.
There’s a longer timetable for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, one of two major changes to federal election law now moving through Congress.
Unlike the For the People Act, which has passed the House, the John Lewis Act has not yet been introduced and will only just begin its legislative process Friday, with a hearing in the the House Administration Elections Subcommittee.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, chair of that subcommittee, said he expects 16 hearings to be held on the bill, including some held by the House and Senate Judiciary committees, and that it won't be ready for floor action until fall.
Double-digit hearings on a bill the House passed in the previous Congress and is likely to do again — and which faces a tough road to advance in the Senate — may seem pointless, but, Butterfield said, the goal is to satisfy the issues the Supreme Court cited in striking down the portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that gave the Justice Department the power to approve certain states' election-related laws. Democrats plan to highlight discriminatory practices in voting policy and procedure, specifically new state restrictions enacted since the 2020 elections.
“We're going the extra mile," Butterfield (D-N.C.) said in an interview. “We're trying to develop a clear and cogent record that would be persuasive to the Supreme Court if the new law is tested."
- Bloomberg News
Georgia may be Number One for business, as we hear often from the state Capitol, but the state ranks 50th in health care for seniors and 51st in overall access to care for all citizens.
Georgia Health News reports that Georgia also ranks 47th for health outcomes.
Dr. Harry Heiman, a health policy expert at Georgia State University, said of the WalletHub ranking that “we have known for a long time that Georgia has one of the highest rates in the country for those without health insurance at the same time we have some of the worst health outcomes.''
“We know Georgia has unacceptably high infant mortality and maternal mortality and high levels of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease,'' Heiman said. He added that “there are significant inequities for all of these problems, disproportionately affecting low-income, rural, and Black and brown communities in our state.''
- Georgia Health News
Since it’s Friday, we’ll send you into the weekend with some light reading until we meet again:
Jamie Dupree, our Washington Insider columnist, writes this week about the infrastructure bill that Democrats want, but can’t seem to move forward;
Your Political Insider Patricia Murphy’s Wednesday column focuses on crime in Atlanta and the central role it’s playing in the race to replace Keisha Lance Bottoms;
Sunday’s Political Insider column looks at why Donald Trump’s threats to oust Gov. Brian Kemp from office may be just another Donald Trump sales job.