The Jolt: It’s Election Day in Georgia. Here’s what to watch.

Atlanta mayoral race at focus of Election Day on Tuesday
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Atlanta mayoral race at focus of Election Day on Tuesday

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Normally, a wide-open vote for Atlanta mayor would take center stage in the metro area on Election Day. But low early turnout, a high number of undecided voters, and major competition for attention from Game Six of the World Series could scramble the all-important race.

The eventual winner will quickly be challenged to combat violent crime in the city, shape the city’s economy and prevent a Buckhead split.

Also on the ballot in Atlanta: all 15 seats on the Atlanta City Council; all nine seats on the Atlanta Public Schools Board; and the crucial question about whether homeowners should continue to get a break on school property taxes. That tax helps to fund APS schools, and was temporarily reduced as relief from rising Fulton County taxes.

Our City Hall team has the latest news from the final weekend of all of the Atlanta races in this week’s Race for City Hall. And here are the key dynamics we’ll be watching on this Election Day:

Can Reed and Moore run away with it?

Poll after poll show former mayor Kasim Reed and city council president Felicia Moore locked in a tight race for the two spots in a likely Nov. 30 runoff. But some polls show City Councilman Andre Dickens, one of Reed’s most outspoken critics, gaining momentum. Councilman Antonio Brown and attorney Sharon Gay are in the top tier, too. The winner needs 50%, plus one vote, to avoid a runoff.

Will the Buckhead movement galvanize voters?

The effort to carve out a Buckhead City out of Atlanta will not come up for a vote until 2022, if at all. But the question has galvanized Atlanta like few other issues, with some in the wealthy neighborhood hungry for secession and others intent on keeping the city intact.

Each of the leading mayoral contenders promises to fight the divorce with counseling and assertive action.

How will undecided voters break?

Surprisingly, the high number of undecided voters has hardly budged as the election day nears. Roughly 40% of the Atlanta electorate was up in the air over which candidate to back in the latest Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Just as surprisingly, Black voters have yet to unite around a favorite contender. While Reed is the most popular candidate among Black voters, with one-third of support, he also has a high unfavorable rating in most polls.

How will demographic changes affect the outcome?

Stark demographic shifts in Atlanta have changed the makeup of the city, with recent Census data showing that the number of new white residents has far outpaced Black population growth. Black residents are no longer the majority in Atlanta, though they are still the largest racial group, making up 47% of the population.

And don’t forget, school’s out for APS students to make way for voters.

The Atlanta mayoral runoff election

The Atlanta mayor’s race will require a runoff election on Nov. 30 between Felicia Moore and a Andre Dickens. A number of other metro area races will also require runoffs.

TUESDAY, Nov 16: Mayoral runoff election debate live stream on AJC.com

The 7 p.m. event featuring candidates Andre Dickens and Felicia Moore will be hosted by The Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk-Young Debate Series, in partnership with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit the debate page on ajc.com to watch the a replay.

AJC Voter Guide: What metro Atlanta voters need to know about the Nov. 30 runoff

ATLANTA: THE RACE FOR CITY HALL How Andre Dickens and Felicia Moore are differentiating themselves

ELSEWHERE: Several mayoral, council races proceed to runoffs in metro Atlanta

FULL COVERAGE of the Atlanta mayoral election


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We told you yesterday about a last-minute attack mailer against Kasim Reed from the Committee for a New Georgia, the state PAC affiliated with the Stacey Abrams-founded New Georgia Project.

We caught up with Kendra Cotton, the chief operating officer of the New Georgia Project. She said the mailer, which features a picture of Reed surrounded by outlines of former staffers who have been indicted or found guilty of various crimes, is in keeping with their values supporting “good government.”

“If you have an individual who has been in service to his community, yet the people around him have been charged with or indicted for wrongdoing, then what’s the common denominator? No more no less.”

(Lawyers for Reed told the AJC in October that despite former staff members’ status, Reed himself is not under federal investigation.)

Asked if it would be a bridge too far to assume Abrams had anything to do with the mailer, Cotton said, “She has had no affiliation with anything New Georgia Project has done since she left in 2017.”

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Election Day will tell us more than who the next mayor of Atlanta could be. Here are some other races and dynamics to keep an eye on:

New voting law. The vote Tuesday will be the biggest election yet that implements the state’s new laws, which include rules that require additional forms of voter ID, reduce ballot drop boxes and tighten deadlines.

It’s also now illegal for volunteers to hand out food and water to voters waiting in line. And ballots cast in the wrong precinct won’t be counted, if voters show up before 5 p.m..

Poorly run elections could result in state investigations under the new voting law.

The battle of the ‘burbs. Democrats scored victories across metro Atlanta’s suburbs in statewide and legislative races in 2018 and 2020. Now left-leaning candidates are targeting city-level races in Atlanta suburbs once thought to be GOP fortresses.

In Sandy Springs, Mayor Rusty Paul – a former Georgia GOP chair – faces a challenge from Dontaye Carter, a left-leaning candidate. Local Democrats are backing a slate of candidates for council races in the city, too.

In Johns Creek, former police officer Brian Weaver is running for an open seat against John Bradberry, whose bid for office is supported by the Fulton GOP. There are also competing slates for city council supported by rival partisan factions.

And the race for mayor of Tucker pits incumbent Frank Auman, a former DeKalb GOP chair, against Robin Biro, a veteran Democratic operative.

Savannah state House seat. Former Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson is the frontrunner to replace the late state Rep. Mickey Stephens, who died in August, If Jackson doesn’t win a majority, the district will go unrepresented during the legislative session that begins Wednesday.

Virginia’s omens. Tia has an important piece today about the Virginia governor’s race and what lessons it could hold for Georgia candidates and races in 2022.

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Speaking of Virginia, Georgia Republicans have watched intently as GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin’s campaign energized conservatives with talk of “critical race theory.”

Burt Jones, a state senator running for Georgia lieutenant governor with Donald Trump’s blessing, debuted a football-themed ad Tuesday that focused on the issue.

“Instead of teaching children about what divides us, we should be teaching our children about what unites us,” he says in the ad.

It is unclear to what extent, if at all, the theoretical framework of critical race theory itself is being taught in Georgia schools, but some educators worry politicization of the issue will make it even more difficult to teach about the role of racism in society.

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In Washington, Democrats are putting the finishing touches on President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” social spending and climate change bill. But some lawmakers are scrambling to get their priorities added back after the package was cut roughly in half to ease its passage.

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath was among 15 members in tough districts who sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging an amendment to add back a measure allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs.

“As majority-makers in competitive districts, we promised our constituents that we would come to Washington to fight on their behalf for lower drug prices,” they wrote. “We cannot turn back now on our promise to the American people.”

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In endorsement news:

  • Former state Rep. Meagan Hanson picked up the support of 35 current and former GOP state legislators for her bid for Georgia’s 6th District, including state Reps. Terry England, Matt Dubnik, and Penny Houston.
  • Emily’s List has endorsed two candidates on the ballot today: Atlanta mayoral candidate Felicia Moore and Natalyn Archibong, who is running for Atlanta City Council President.

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The Washington Post has a new investigation on Jan. 6 that recounts the days leading up to and after the breach of the Capitol.

We took note of this passage about the pressure Republican elected officials in Georgia faced to pass election laws based on misinformation spread by President Donald Trump and his allies about the 2020 election.

Like many of his GOP colleagues, state Rep. Alan Powell did not believe that evidence had emerged proving that fraud had tainted the 2020 election. But he did think it was possible that some fraud had occurred, and he supported tightening laws to make it harder to cheat in the future.

At a committee hearing in February, Powell tried to explain his view, saying that widespread fraud “wasn't found — it's just in a lot of people's minds that there was."

The hate mail and ugly phone calls poured in. One Trump supporter called from Massachusetts to tell Powell, “I know who you are and I know where you live because your address is public."

Colleagues urged Powell to report the call to state law enforcement. Instead, he called back. The man, a retired police detective, assured him that he didn't mean for his message to sound threatening. “I'll take you at your word," Powell replied.

- The Washington Post

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State Sen. John Albers updated his supporters yesterday on his son, Will, who had gone into renal failure and received one of his dad’s kidneys in transplant surgery in July.

Now 100 days after surgery, father and son are healthy and Will recently celebrated his 26th birthday.

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Representatives from the Georgia International Trade Office will accept the U.S. Department of Commerce’s “E Star” Award in Washington this week, becoming the first four-time winner.

Also, Mary Waters, Georgia’s deputy commissioner for international trade, will serve a two-year term as president of State International Development Organizations, the organization that represents trade interests.

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Sad news: State Medical Board Director LaSharn Hughes, who managed both the Georgia Composite Medical Board and the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce, died suddenly on Oct. 28.

The AJC’s Carrie Teegardin and Johnny Edwards have more on her life and impact on the state.

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As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.

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