The Race for City Hall: A contentious debate kicks off first week of early voting

Mayoral candidate Sharon Gay speaks as other mayoral candidates (from left) Felicia Moore, Andre Dickens, Antonio Brown and Kasim Reed listen during a debate at The Gathering Spot last Thursday, October 7, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Mayoral candidate Sharon Gay speaks as other mayoral candidates (from left) Felicia Moore, Andre Dickens, Antonio Brown and Kasim Reed listen during a debate at The Gathering Spot last Thursday, October 7, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

A weekly roundup of the most important things you need to know about the Atlanta mayor’s race

The first televised debate of the mayor’s race over the weekend kicked off what’s sure to be a busy and critical week in the election to decide Atlanta’s next mayor. Voters started heading to the polls Tuesday for the first of three weeks of early voting before Election Day on Nov. 2.

Hoping to win over undecided voters and secure a spot in a likely runoff, the candidates pitched their plans to reduce crime at a Channel 2 Action News debate Sunday night, sparring over topics like corruption and the fate of the city jail.

The sharpest back-and-forth involved ethics and Reed’s eight-year tenure at City Hall. The debate came days after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that two of Reed’s personal attorneys said they were told by the U.S. Attorney’s Office that Reed was not a target in the Atlanta City Hall corruption investigation. A third attorney, for Reed’s campaign, said a grand jury probe into his campaign spending also ended without charges.

ExploreKasim Reed says he’s cleared in feds’ probe of City Hall. Will it matter in mayor’s race?

That wasn’t enough for Moore, who said the Reed administration brought a “cloud of corruption” over City Hall that would be another distraction should he be elected to a third term. That solicited a sharp rebuke from Reed about her vote to increase property taxes in 2009 when Moore was on City Council; she said she didn’t regret that vote because the city was broke at the end of the Great Recession.

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In case you missed it, the AJC held its own forum with the leading mayoral candidates last Monday — your Race for City Hall hosts asked questions about affordable housing policy, coronavirus vaccine mandates, what sets each candidate apart and more. Go to ajc.com to read a recap of the forum, listen to a podcast with our analysis or stream the full event.

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Kasim Reed and Felicia Moore each celebrated endorsements from two unions representing city of Atlanta first responders and employees last week.

Reed stood with supporters at his campaign office on Thursday to announce that the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 134, the union that represents almost 600 Atlanta firefighters, is backing him in his bid for a third term.

“I always want the women and men of our fire department to have the best. The best equipment, the best facilities. … This endorsement is one of the infinity stones” of Atlanta mayoral politics, Reed said, referencing the six all-powerful gems from the Marvel “Avengers” movies.

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Former mayor Kasim Reed accepts an endorsement from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 134 on Thursday. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Former mayor Kasim Reed accepts an endorsement from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 134 on Thursday. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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Former mayor Kasim Reed accepts an endorsement from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 134 on Thursday. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

The Professional Association of City Employees Union, which represents Atlanta’s employees, is endorsing Moore, her campaign announced last week.

“Felicia Moore’s reliable insistence on transparency, plus her many votes to move legislation that would help our City of Atlanta employees with salary increases, pension reform, as well as her work holding department heads accountable, make her the best choice to lead the city of Atlanta,” PACE President Gina Pagnotta-Murphy said in a statement.

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Latino issues took center stage last week when candidates gathered at a mayoral forum organized by and for the Hispanic community. The event was billed as the first of its kind in Atlanta history, as mayoral hopefuls addressed issues important to the Latino community. Lautaro Grinspan has the story.

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A review by the Georgia News Lab found some apparent shortcomings in the personal finance disclosures of the three current city officeholders in the race: Moore filed her disclosure late, Dickens did not list some companies of which he is an officer or trustee and Brown did not file a report at all.

Only current officeholders are required to file the disclosure statements, which show their personal financial interests, meaning Reed and Gay were exempt; neither filed a report.

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What’s coming up:

- 11Alive will hold a mayoral debate today.

- On Thursday, Oct. 14, the Buckhead Business Association and Livable Buckhead are hosting a mayoral forum at Chastain Horse Park starting at 7:15 a.m.; candidates will share their vision for the Buckhead community amid the renewed discussions over Buckhead cityhood.

- Reed is joining rapper Killer Mike for an “intimate, fireside-chat” on Thursday at Switchyards, the startup hub with locations around the city.

- A City Council District 1 candidate forum co-hosted by the Organized Neighbors of Summerhill and the Summerhill Neighborhood Development Corporation is happening on Saturday, Oct. 16 at 4 p.m. It’ll be live-streamed on Facebook.

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We’ll leave you with this: At a recent forum, the mayoral candidates were asked to sing a few lines of their favorite song. It did not disappoint. Moore sang “Golden” by Jill Scott, while Brown rapped a few lines of “The Bigger Picture” by Lil Baby. Dickens chose “Elevators (Me & You)” by Outkast while Reed crooned “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” by Lou Rawls.

As always, send us any feedback or story tips! We’re at jdcapelouto@ajc.com and wilborn.nobles@ajc.com.

Learn more about Atlanta elections

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is providing complete coverage of the Atlanta city elections on Nov. 2, 2021, including the race for mayor. Here are some resources to help you learn more about the elections, including early voting, absentee voting and information for Election Day.

AJC voter guides for Atlanta and other metro Atlanta counties

Who are the candidates for Atlanta mayor?

Who are the candidates for Atlanta city council?

Neighborhood by neighborhood: The AJC asked What do Atlanta residents want from the next mayor?

The Race for Mayor: A weekly roundup and update by our political reporters of the most important things you need to know about the Atlanta mayor’s race

Full coverage: Latest news articles and election information for voters

More about how the AJC is covering the Atlanta mayor’s race

WILBORN NOBLES III

Wilborn P. Nobles III covers the Atlanta mayor's policies for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Wil (not "Willie" or "William") previously covered Baltimore County government at The Baltimore Sun, but he never finished "The Wire." He also covered education for the Times-Picayune in his hometown of New Orleans, so he tries to avoid discussions about football. Wil used to play tuba for his high school marching band, but he eventually put down his horn to intern at The Washington Post. The Louisiana State University graduate enjoys gardening, comedy, and music.

Wilborn.Nobles@ajc.com

J.D. CAPELOUTO

J.D. Capelouto is a local news reporter covering City Hall and all things intown Atlanta for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His work focuses the City Council, neighborhood issues, public safety, housing and transportation. J.D. was born and raised in Atlanta and has lived in the city all his life, except for four years at Boston University, where he studied journalism and learned how to dress for cold weather. He’s been with the AJC since 2018, and has previously written for The Boston Globe and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. When he’s not reporting or scrolling through Twitter, J.D. enjoys pop culture podcasts, “Survivor” and visiting various pools around Atlanta.

Joseph.Capelouto@ajc.com