ATL Mayor's race takes shape as city grapples with another violent weekend

The increase in violent crime is set to be a huge backdrop in the upcoming race for mayor

The last several weekends in the city of Atlanta have been very violent, and I’m afraid to say that this weekend was no different. At least 14 people were shot in the city this weekend alone, including 4 at the at the popular Trap Museum early on Sunday morning. Another 3 were shot in a Home Depot parking lot in Buckhead on Saturday night.

Atlanta’s growing crime problem

This weekend’s violence is only a fraction of the growing crime problem in Atlanta. According to police officials, murders have increased by 67% in the last year in Zone 2, which includes Buckhead. In Zone 3, which includes Southeast Atlanta, officials have reported a 100% increase in rape. Carjackings have increased by 120% in Zone 5, which includes Downtown and Midtown.

The city’s recent increase in violent crime is set to be a huge backdrop in the upcoming election for Mayor. As I’m sure you all know by now, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms shocked the political universe earlier this month when she announced that she would not seek re-election. Her administration has been criticized for its handling of public safety, and residents of Buckhead have openly discussed breaking away from Atlanta to form its own city.

WWKD (What Will Kasim Do?)

Since Bottoms’ announcement, we have started to get a glimpse of who might enter the free-for-all race to lead Georgia’s state capital and largest city. Everyone is waiting with bated breath to see if former Mayor Kasim Reed, Bottoms’ predecessor and former ally, will campaign for his old job. Reed, a former State Senator, was seen as a rising star in Georgia politics after his upset victory in 2009, but he left office in 2018 under a cloud of scandals and federal investigations.

As I mentioned, Reed and Bottoms were once very close allies, and he was perhaps her most prominent supporter in the 2017 election for Mayor. But there has been a very noticeable rift between the two in recent months. They have taken shots at each other without calling one another out by name. Prior to Bottoms’ announcement, Reed said that the rise in crime is not linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, as Bottoms has often suggested. In December, he retweeted a statement ripping his successor’s response to the shooting of a 7-year-old girl, seen above.

In her press conference announcing her decision to not seek another term, Bottoms reminded the city of a federal investigation that “sucked the air out of city hall into the previous administration.” In an interview on MSNBC over the weekend, she was asked about her relationship with her predecessor. She said that while she doesn’t believe in “kicking people when they are down,” Mayor Reed has taken every opportunity to criticize her while she was in a weakened position. “Clearly he’s interested in being Mayor again,” she said of her one-time ally.

Reed told a local TV station last week that he has received lots of calls from supporters in recent days about running for Mayor again. He said that he has even been receiving financial commitments. He told WSB-TV that he needs some more time before making a final decision, but he is certainly giving off the impression of a candidate for mayor, from discussing the impacts the city’s crime problem has had on his own family, and seemingly taking responsibility for all of the investigations into city hall while he was in office. “The buck stops with me,” Reed said. “I made no excuses. I accept responsibility and if I decide to run for mayor again, we would take even more extraordinary measures advised by the best people in the state, in the city, are the measures that we would take, and we would execute them.”

Other candidates

As Reed kicks the tires, other candidates have begun announcing their campaigns for Mayor. City Council President Felicia Moore was the first major candidate to challenge Bottoms. Attorney Sharon Gay, who served as an aide to former Mayor Bill Campbell, filed paperwork to begin raising money earlier this year.

Two more candidates entered the race last week. City Councilman Antonio Brown, the first Black LGBTQ member of the Atlanta City Council, called on voters to “reimagine Atlanta” in his campaign kickoff. But Brown faces an uphill battle: aside from his youth, he is also currently under federal indictment for falsifying loan documents and credit card applications to purchase luxury cars. He has maintained his innocence and derided the charges as an effort to “divide and distract us.”

Another City Councilman, Andre Dickens, announced his candidacy for mayor last week. Dickens told supports on social media that he has dedicated his life to “improving our city and its residents.” He also says that he will prioritize public safety if he is elected.

Former interim Congressman Kwanza Hall, who served on the city council for over a decade and unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2017, could also join the race soon. He said in a Facebook message last Thursday that he has been contacted by supporters and allies asking him to run for mayor and that he would give the race “serious consideration and prayer” over the weekend. “I’ll make my decision soon,” he teased.

Watching from the sidelines

Two-time mayoral runner-up Mary Norwood’s name vaulted to the top of the list of potential candidates for Mayor after Bottoms made her announcement. But she is currently running to get back on the Atlanta City Council, where she served for served for over a decade prior to her narrow loss in the 2017 election for mayor. Several things would be working against her if she chose to run for mayor again. For starters, it would be hard to convince voters to give you a third look after two stinging losses. She also signed onto the Trump campaign’s ill-fated lawsuit to overturn Georgia’s election results and even alleged fraud in both of her unsuccessful campaigns for the city’s top job. For these reasons, I do not see Norwood running for Mayor for a third time. But open races such as this one can be enticing to ambitious candidates, so I wouldn’t exactly rule it out either.

Former City Council President Cathy Woolard, who fell about 4,000 votes short of clinching a spot in the 2017 runoff for mayor, has taken her name out of the running. In a note to supporters on Facebook, Woolard said that she wants to continue her work to make Atlanta a better place, but she thinks it is best for her to “weigh in from the sidelines.” She also ended her note with a word of advice: “don’t be in a rush to get on anyone’s campaign bus right now. Now is the time to listen for a vision you like; priorities that make sense and a skill set that convinces you that the former can get implemented by your candidate.”

As the race for Mayor heats up, expect violent crime to be the number one issue in the campaign. It has impacted families and households across the city, and residents are growing impatient with city leaders for not acting aggressively to stop it.