The Race for City Hall: May the ads be ever in your favor

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

It’s been nearly seven months since the Georgia Senate runoffs, when politics ads flooded local airwaves with messages in support of one candidate or against another.

Nine weeks out from another high-profile election, the ads are back. Two candidates for mayor — attorney Sharon Gay and former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed — both announced big media buys last week.

Unsurprisingly, Reed’s ad focused on crime, which he noted on Twitter has become the “central theme” of his campaign. The ad featured residents saying Reed’s experience is needed to stem the spike in violent crime. Gay’s spot, meanwhile, centered on her work with the development of the West Highlands neighborhood and the impact that had on crime (though some community leaders took issue with the ad’s depiction of her role in the changes).

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While candidates have largely spent the summer amassing their war chests, they’re starting to spend more as we head into the last two months before Election Day. Gay’s ad buy cost $300,000, while Reed’s cost nearly $590,000.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that both candidates had the most money in their bank accounts at the end of the June 30 fundraising cycle, with nearly 65% of Gay’s funds coming from personal loans she made to her campaign.


The stage was crowded at the latest mayoral forum last Tuesday, which featured 12 of the 14 qualified candidates. In addition to Gay and Reed, City Councilman Antonio Brown, Councilman Andre Dickens, Mark Hammad, Kenny Hill, Rebecca King, Council President Felicia Moore, Walter Reeves, Roosevelt Searles III, Richard Wright and Glenn Wrightson participated in the event.

“I don’t have political entanglements. I don’t have any obstruction keeping me from seeing the need and addressing the need in our city,” Hill said. He also questioned the motives of campaigns focused on “running after high dollar contributions.”

Credit: Wilborn Nobles

Credit: Wilborn Nobles

And Moore continued to throw shade at Reed, saying “we have crimes in our streets, but we don’t need them in the suites of City Hall.” Reed kept the focus on crime, saying “if we don’t turn the tide of crime, our city is going to break apart.”

Meanwhile, all but two of the candidates — Wright and Wrightson — said they would replace current police Chief Rodney Bryant if they are elected mayor. There are more details in the AJC’s full story, including which candidates haven’t seen “Black Panther.”




An analysis of new Census data shows how the population in Atlanta’s neighborhoods has changed over the last 10 years — and how the racial makeup of those communities changed. Many historically Black neighborhoods on the southside and westside saw an uptick in white residents since 2010. Meanwhile, many neighborhoods in Buckhead saw a rise in their share of non-white residents. Check out the maps to see the changes in detail.

It’s no secret that race is often a factor in elections. With Atlanta’s African-American population now below 50%, experts told us how the population shifts could impact this year’s race for mayor.


Speaking of data, our colleagues on the AJC’s data team put together a few interactive charts that show how Atlanta’s crime numbers have changed over the years. It’s broken down by violent crime and property crimes.

The leading mayoral candidates shared their thoughts with the AJC about how they would combat the rise in shootings and homicides after Atlanta police detectives opened their 100th homicide investigation last weekend.


Kirsten Elise Dunn, one of the two candidates who didn’t attend the latest forum, announced her candidacy for mayor last week, telling supporters she’s tired of the same old politicians making “20,000 promises” only for none of them to be kept.

“I could have counted myself out when, like 59% of foster children, I spent the majority of my 20s on the merry-go-round of recidivism. … But today, I am a representation of resilience,” said Dunn, a businesswoman and mother of four.

Dunn spent five years in prison after a 2002 fraud conviction. A campaign spokeswoman said Dunn was imprisoned at 19, separating her from her newborn at that time. When Dunn was released, she couldn’t afford the monthly probation fees, which put her back into the system until she “finally got a chance to get back on her feet,” the spokeswoman said.


What’s coming up:

- On Tuesday at 11:30 a.m., the TransFormation Alliance will hold a forum for candidates running in contested races for City Council seats 4-8. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and Georgia Advancing Communities Together, along with other partners, are sponsoring the “TransFormation Tuesdays” forum series, which will focus on racial equity through issues like climate, housing and mobility.

- Clark Atlanta University’s political science department is hosting a forum for the City Council president candidates on Wednesday at 5 p.m.

- A coalition of housing and transportation-focused organizations — including Beltline Rail Now and Housing Justice League — kicked off its council candidate forum series last week, and will continue this week with forums for districts 1, 3, 10 and 12. A full schedule is online.


What issues are most important to you? And what would you ask candidates if you had the chance? Fill out this online form and your suggestions could be included in our upcoming election stories. You can also email us with your tips, comments, questions and suggestions at


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.


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.