On November 7th , voters will head to the polls to choose the new leader of one of the most diverse and quickly growing cities in the country. The City of Atlanta is an economic and cultural powerhouse which has benefitted immensely under the leadership of Mayor Kasim Reed, and the time is quickly approaching to choose his successor. While the election is in just three weeks, a runoff is all but certain with so many candidates in the race. In other words, this is still anybody’s game.
Of course, some players are further ahead than others. There are a few metrics which help determine their relative positions, such as fundraising strength. As of the most recent financial disclosures, five candidates have raised over $1 million in total: Peter Aman ($2.1 million, $625,000 on hand), Ceaser Mitchell ($2.1 million, $455,000 on hand), Mary Norwood ($1.3 million, $530,000 on hand), Keisha Lance Bottoms ($1.2 million, $440,000 on hand), and Cathy Woolard ($1 million, $250,000 on hand). Four other candidates in the race – Kwanza Hall, Vincent Fort, Michael Sterling, and John Eaves – have all cleared six figures as well.
Polling tells another part of the story, with four of the top five fundraisers taking four of the top five spots in the most recent Channel 2 Action News/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Landmark Communications poll. Norwood comes in first with 22.1% of the vote, having lost some support since the earlier days of the campaign when she was polling closer to 28-30%. Lance Bottoms has quickly risen in the ranks to earn the second spot with 19.2% of the vote. Aman comes in third with 12.6% as his support continues to grow slowly and steadily. In fourth is Woolard with 6.3% and in fifth is Fort with 6.2% (Fundraising titan Mitchell finished in sixth with 5.8%).
With fundraising in the seven digits and solid polling numbers, Norwood and Lance Bottoms would appear to be the candidates on track for a runoff in December. However, there is one very important element to keep in mind at this stage – undecided voters. If “undecided voters” were a candidate, they would be in a very close third with 18.2% of the electorate’s support. With millions of dollars yet to be spent and three weeks to go, any candidate could still end up on the ballot in December if they can give those undecided voters a reason to back them in three weeks.
Atlanta is at a crossroads, and most of the candidates in the race have presented similar visions for the city – continued economic growth, more affordable housing, improvements to transportation, more support for public safety, and most recently, ethical reforms. There are similarities in background as well – five of the nine candidates listed above served on the Atlanta City Council, including the two frontrunners. So how are those undecided voters to choose?
It will likely come down to which candidate has the most enthusiasm around them. While general excitement in this race has been muted compared to 2009, most likely due to the onset of analysis paralysis that is inevitable with so many candidates, Lance Bottoms and Norwood have both clearly earned the interest of a significant number of voters. However, Norwood has functionally been campaigning for this race for the last eight years – Lance Bottoms has made her progress in under 365 days.