Though the election results have not yet been certified, it looks like Kasim Reed is out.
Defying pollsters and leapfrogging the one-time frontrunner, Atlanta City Councilmember Andre Dickens on Wednesday morning appeared to secure a spot in the city’s mayoral runoff alongside Council President Felicia Moore. Just weeks ago, Moore—who trounced the competition, claiming more than 40 percent of the 96,122 votes tallied—had been widely considered the second-place candidate, trailing former Mayor Reed in the polls. Instead, Reed gathered 22.4 percent of votes to Dickens’s 23 percent—a margin of less than 600 votes.
Months ago, Atlanta’s political wonks might have rolled their eyes at the prospect of Reed being knocked out of runoff contention, although the ex-mayor had been stagnant—or dropping—in local polls of late. His apparent exodus from the mayoral race would leave a void in the contest that often spotlighted memories of the corruption that occurred at City Hall on his watch and the candidates’ plans to keep it from happening again.
As the Atlanta Braves hammered the Houston Astros, ultimately claiming their first World Series win since 1995, so, too, was Moore clobbering her competition. By 10 p.m., with the Braves roaring ahead 6 runs to the Astros’ 0, it seemed clear that Moore was destined for the November 30 runoff. Who would join her was still unclear. But lagging far behind—and virtually neck-and-neck with Dickens—was Reed, for once looking like an underdog in a bid to win back his old job.
Shortly after 11 p.m., Moore took the stage at a ballroom at downtown’s Marriott Marquee to declare she’d secured the most votes in the general election. With the Braves up 7-0, she said, “There are a lot of winners here tonight. All of you, and it looks like the Braves, too.”
It wasn’t until around 12:45 a.m. that Dickens claimed victory from the Odd Fellows Building in Sweet Auburn. “For the next 28 days I’m going to prove my case that I can lead this city into the future that we deserve,” he told the Atlanta Voice. Although Reed gave brief remarks at his Election Night party at downtown’s Hyatt Regency shortly after midnight—“I said it’d be worth it; I didn’t say it would be easy”—he did not return to address attendees after Dickens announced his apparent success. All of the sudden, it seemed, like the Astros, Reed was headed back to the proverbial locker room to contemplate the plays that brought him to this point.
For those keeping their finger to the pulse of this race in recent weeks, Wednesday morning’s results came as no surprise. “I don’t know what there was to be shocked about,” said Andra Gillespie, an Emory University political science associate professor. “All the public polls pointed to the fact that voters were very undecided . . . and it was very clear that there was a critical mass of people who just did not support Kasim Reed.”
Though he touted name recognition, celebrity endorsements, and on-the-job experience, Reed’s candidacy was marred by the corruption scandal. “Despite his pronouncements that he’s not being investigated by the Justice Department anymore, the fact that members of his administration went to jail on corruption charges suggested a culture for which he is responsible,” Gillespie told Atlanta.
And while Reed’s departure from this contest could turn down the temperature when it comes to mud-slinging, there’s no easy road ahead for Moore and Dickens. Moore is now the clear frontrunner, Gillespie said, but there’s not much daylight between her politics and Dickens’s. “Moore is not going to be able to draw the sharp contrasts with Dickens that she would have been able to draw with Reed,” she said.
Now a big question on everyone’s mind: Which candidate will Reed voters back? It’s unlikely Dickens solicits an endorsement from Reed, “but he’s going to need Reed voters in order to narrow the gap,” Gillespie said. The same goes for Moore. With crime still the hot-button issue, the two remaining candidates will have to distinguish themselves on other issues. Dickens will likely push housing affordability promises; Moore will market herself as the candidate best positioned to keep Buckhead in Atlanta. Dickens might lean more progressive, but Moore offers more political experience.
Less than a month separates Atlanta from the runoff election, so Moore and Dickens must act fast to assert themselves as the best leader for the capital of the South.