With early voting just concluded across Georgia for municipal elections, a shocking 41.4% of voters remain undecided about their choice for the next mayor of the City of Atlanta. Here’s what you need to know about the race in advance of Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 2.
Out of the 14 candidates who qualified for candidacy, only five have been featured in the most recent candidate forums.
Most recent polling from University of Georgia’s School of Public & International Affairs shows Felicia Moore, current President of the Atlanta City Council in first place at 23.8%. Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed trails in a close second at 20.4%. Atlanta City Council member Andre Dickens is at 6.2%. Attorney Sharon Gay polls at 4.3% and Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown polls at 2.4%. September’s campaign financial disclosures shows Reed taking first place for campaign contributions, totaling nearly $3 million.
Progressives have denounced former mayor Kasim Reed’s bid for candidacy, citing past corruption charges of wire fraud, impending federal investigations, and harmful policies that affected Atlanta city residents during his tenure. Reed also made headlines earlier this year when it was disclosed that his campaign had inappropriately used campaign funds for personal expenses, including “jewelry, resort travel, lingerie and furniture.” Reed also faces criticism for the ongoing corruption investigation of Atlanta City Council that occurred during his tenure, involving many of his appointed officials. However, name recognition has proven to be a major driving force in the race. Despite a flurry of scandals, Kasim Reed continues to triumph over the rest of the candidate pool. Reed is running on a platform of crime reduction, bolstering APD by hiring 750 new officers, increasing affordable housing, and expanding economic development.
Felicia Moore, president of the Atlanta City Council, has served District 9 on the Atlanta City Council for 20 years. She champions herself as an advocate for “increasing public safety and reducing crime“, and hopes to bring transparency to the office. In September, Moore called for the creation of a “21st century police department” to rebuild trust between “the community and the Atlanta Police Department”, increasing the size of the police force, and keeping the Atlanta City Detention Center open.
City Council member Andre Dickens has represented Atlanta City Council Post 3 at-Large since 2013. He sponsored legislation to create Atlanta’s transportation department and helped increase affordable housing in the city, as the AJC reports. However, many voters have critiqued Dickens’ voting record. Earlier this year, he voted in favor of building the new police training facility (“Cop City”).
Sharon Gay, a contract attorney by practice, has never held political office, but cites her experience as a contract lawyer and expertise in urban planning and economic development in the City of Atlanta as a major qualification for mayor. Gay hopes to expand affordable housing and public services in the city, while strengthening relationships with APD.
City Council member Antonio Brown has served Atlanta’s District 3 since 2019, and is the youngest member of Atlanta City Council. During his tenure, Brown has called for police reform, organized BLM protests after the murder of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta last year, and introduced progressive legislation. If elected, Brown would become Atlanta’s first openly LGBTQ mayor. Despite his progressive policymaking, Brown was previously indicted in July 2020 for wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud and making false statements on a bank loan application, which has deterred voters.
Youth Issues Swept to the Side
While candidates have focused on issues of crime or economic development, many have yet to address key issues that Atlanta youth are concerned about.
Felicia Moore has only emphasized youth in terms of the justice system and expansion of city programs, such as the creation of a task force to prevent teens from joining gangs. Reed has followed in similar suit, only referencing young people when it comes to tackling youth crime. Sharon Gay’s website has not outlined any policy targeted toward young people. Andre Dickens has cited his efforts to revitalize the Atlanta Youth Commission, which had been defunct until 2015. Antonio Brown founded The People’s Uprising, a non-profit led by community organizers and elected officials to influence progressive policies such as “ending generational poverty and police brutality.”
Taking Questions From Atlanta Youth Mayoral Forum
On Oct. 25, Partnership for Southern Equity and YES! For Equity hosted the Atlanta Youth Mayoral Forum with Felicia Moore, Andre Dickens, and Antonio Brown in attendance (invitations were extended to all candidates who met filing deadlines by October 25th.)
Rachel McBride, 17, who hosted the Atlanta Youth Mayoral Forum, pressed the candidates on a multitude of issues.
On Public Transit:
Candidates were asked about their initiatives to make Atlanta’s transit system more equitable. Brown says that he would work to build housing around the public transportation system in an effort to “incentivize residents to believe in public transit again.” Andre Dickens proposed developing housing along “transit corridors, at MARTA station parking lots,” and to expand rail around the “Belt Line, and to Campbellton Road” to mitigate transit issues. Dickens also cited his experience as founder of the Atlanta Department of Transportation. His most ambitious proposal — making MARTA free for Atlanta residents by 2035.
When asked about the Atlanta City Council’s vote to withhold $73 million from APD to fund alternative programs last year, Dickens said he voted for the proposal, citing a need for a “non-emergency force” to address issues like “homelessness, mental health breakdowns, or domestic disputes that are non-violent.” Antonio Brown cited his legislation to create a new 24 hour, non-emergency response unit to work with residents “before their circumstances become egregious,” such as homelessness and substance abuse. Moore says she would look into expansion of police budgets so officers can “do more in the community.”
Candidates were also pressed on the issue of student turnover rates in Atlanta schools. Andre Dickens said that student mobility was “one of the biggest correlators to student educational outcomes,” and says he would work to get all Atlanta schools “below a 33% mobility rate.” He also proposed freezing the tax assessment to “keep tax increases low” to help families become financially stable. Felicia Moore says she would work to help parents stay “credit-worthy” to prevent evictions by ensuring “livable wage jobs” in the city. Brown says he would work to promote home-ownership through financial literacy programs.
On Climate Change:
On the issue of climate change, Brown emphasized the need for better transit to eliminate residents’ carbon footprints. Dickens, who is a chemical engineer, cited Atlanta’s energy burden being “25% higher than the national average,” and said he would commit to moving toward cleaner energy resources and community microgrids for the City of Atlanta. Moore pointed out a need to regulate carbon emissions from state activity occurring in the city.
On “Cop City”:
Candidates have also voiced their opinions on a proposed new training facility in Atlanta, dubbed “Cop City.” In recent months, the plan has evolved between moderates in favor of increasing police budgets in an effort to keep crime low in the city, versus those who see it as an overreach of police authority and detrimental to the environment. All of the top five candidates (with the exception of Antonio Brown, who voted against the proposal), support the development of the new training facility.
Teens Share Their Perspectives
Chinelo Ireh, 18, who attends Douglas County High School says: “I’m looking at Andre Dickens. His experience with transportation and knowing that he can run Hartsfield-Jackson [International Airport] makes me feel like he knows what he’s doing. Also he’s very educated and has a chemical engineering degree. In comparison to the other candidates, he seems the most experienced and actually cares about his job. This doesn’t seem like a power play for him like I’ve seen with the other mayoral candidates. He seems like he actually wants to help the City of Atlanta.”
“Crime is the hot ticket item”
Marli English, 16, who attends Campbell High School says, “The candidate I would probably support is Dickens. I like his ideas about housing, I think that gentrification is one of Atlanta’s biggest problems. Of course, crime is the hot ticket item that candidates are choosing to focus on, but I think that when you’re displacing people, crime is only going to increase. If you stop prioritizing development and start prioritizing the right to housing and public services. The two biggest candidates, Moore and Reed have beliefs on policing that I highly disagree with. The difference between them and Dickens is that Dickens is still choosing a non-combative approach to policing (community policing). But in any shape or form, all the candidates are still supporting more police in more places to mitigate crime, which I think isn’t the correct solution. It clearly hasn’t worked.
Just because Reed has been the mayor previously, I think that people are just going to vote for him. That’s also a big issue with politics we have today. People voting for whose name they’ve heard. I’m choosing not to support Brown because of his financial indictment.
Via Claire, who attends Atlanta International School, 18, says she’s undecided about her choice. “To be honest, it’s mostly because a lot of the candidates I’d vote for seem the same, and don’t have stances that I love, particularly on some significant issues like policing and the new police training facility.”
The general election will be on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Early voting ended on Friday, Oct. 29. If no candidate reaches a 50% percent threshold, the election will go to a runoff on November 30.