The day of reckoning is finally upon us – at some point this evening, (probably late if Fulton election returns come in at their normal plodding pace) we’ll have our finalists in the race to replace Kasim Reed as the 60th mayor of Atlanta. There’s been plenty made of the hectic race, which has predictably gotten a bit dirtier down the home stretch as the candidates desperately look to shoot up the polls and into the runoff. As of now though, all signs point to Keisha Lance-Bottoms and Mary Norwood as the two to emerge and head into the month-long sprint to December 5th.
A runoff seems like a foregone conclusion at this point, but back in 2001 Shirley Franklin managed to avoid one by taking 50.2% of the vote to defeat Robb Pitts – currently running for chairman of the Fulton County Commission. Pitts did fare well in Buckhead in that mayoral contest though, which could be a good sign for the Democrat as he looks to hold off Republican Gabe Sterling in his race today.
2009 saw Norwood take a strong 45% of the vote in race to replace Franklin, but Kasim Reed held on and defeated the 2017 frontrunner after rallying the Democrat vote in the runoff. That election saw a low turnout across metro-Atlanta, but a strong showing once again from Buckhead, which explains Norwood’s near-outright win. GOP Ward 8 voted at nearly a rate nearly 15% higher than the city’s average.
This time around Norwood’s numbers don’t look quite as strong, with polling suggesting that Peter Aman may be cutting into her North Atlanta base. In 2009 she took nearly 75% of the vote from Buckhead, numbers she’ll be hard pressed to replicate with such a crowded field.
The Buckhead vote will be the number to look at – assuming she advances tonight she’ll need a strong showing from the Republican stronghold if she wants to win in December. Conversely if Keisha Lance-Bottoms emerges as her opponent as many expect, look closely at her numbers to see how well she can turn out a Democrat base that may be a little leery of Kasim Reed’s favorite candidate considering all the smoke around City Hall. Considering Hillary Clinton won Atlanta by a whopping 81%-16% last year, if the base buys in to Lance-Bottoms it may be her race to lose in a runoff.
Check back tomorrow for analysis and exclusive insight from the day’s elections.