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Runoff Likely With ‘Undecideds’ Still Leading In Atlanta Mayoral Race

October 27, 2021 by Dan McCue
City Council President Felicia Moore (left) and former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (right), front runners in this years mayoral contest.

ATLANTA — By now, there’s usually some clarity, but with just a week to go before Atlantans turn out to select their new mayor and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s final poll in the books, the number of undecided voters is far outpacing those committed to the race’s actual frontrunners.

According to the AJC poll, City Council President Felicia Moore holds a slight lead, well within the poll’s +/-3.5 point margin of error, over former mayor Kasim Reed, 23.8% to 20.4%.

But the number of people who told Atlanta’s newspaper of record they still haven’t selected a candidate stood at a whopping 44.4%.

Rounding out the top five in a field of more than a dozen candidates are at-large city councilmember Andre Dickens at 6.2%; former city hall aide and longtime attorney Sharon Gay at 4.3%; and city councilmember Antonio Brown at 2.4%.

The newspaper’s assessment of its own poll was that black voters in Atlanta had failed to coalesce around a single candidate, and divisions within the community erupted last week when Richard Rose, president of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP blindsided Reed and some in his own organization with a public rebuke of the former mayor’s last administration.

“The NAACP typically refrains from endorsing a political party or speaking out about a specific candidate. Today, I am breaking that tacit protocol,” Rose said in a written statement. “To do anything less would be an abdication of my mission to help move Atlanta forward, not backward.”

Rose’s objections to Reed appeared to center on a lack of progress on the creation of affordable housing during the former mayor’s term, which ran from 2010 to 2018, and the candidate’s alleged coziness with the Atlanta Police Department and the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, whose Atlanta local has endorsed him.

Reed’s campaign responded by noting the candidate is a “lifetime member of the NAACP and is committed to the mission and work of this path-breaking organization.”

It also dismissed Rose’s allegations as “false and wholly without merit.”

The events took another odd turn Tuesday when Rose apologized, reportedly because National NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson threatened to suspend or expel Rose if he continued to criticize Reed.

All of this drama, of course, stems from incumbent Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms deciding not to run for reelection last spring. 

Since her announcement in May, the race has been a free-for-all. If no candidate crosses the 50% of votes threshold next week, the race will be decided by a runoff election on November 30.

According to the website Georgiavotes.com, as of Tuesday 15,958 people had participated in early voting in Atlanta, with 15,191 voting in-person and another 767 people voting by mail.

About 5,164 people requested mail ballots, meaning the current return rate is 14.9%.

Of those who have cast a ballot, 48.3% are Black, 39.9% White and 9.7% identified themselves as “other.”

Significantly more women have voted than men so far, 59.1% to 40.8%, but the most interesting number of all may be this: old voters — meaning those 50 and older — currently account for 75% of the votes cast.

When she announced in early May that she was not going to run for another term, Bottoms described the decision as difficult and admitted to drafting two announcements: The one she ultimately delivered and one with which she would have stayed in the race.

“This has been my highest honor to serve as mayor of this city,” Bottoms told reporters who had gathered to hear her decision. 

“It is abundantly clear to me that it is time to pass the baton on to someone else,” she said.

Bottoms, who remains widely popular despite having to deal with the kinds of crisis that typically plague a city hall, went on to say she doesn’t know what she’s going to do next, “but what I do know is that this is a decision made from a position of strength, not weakness.” 

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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