Surprise! Fulton Chairman John Eaves is diving into Atlanta mayor’s race

The already crowded race to succeed Kasim Reed is about to be jam-packed, bringing the field of major candidates to nine
John Eaves

Photograph courtesy of Fulton County Government

The already crowded race for Atlanta mayor is about to become positively jam-packed with the entry of Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves.

Eaves, 54, is preparing to throw his hat into the ring, a move that will bring the field of major candidates to nine (not counting several also-rans and obscurities). He wouldn’t need to resign as county chairman to run for mayor until the official qualifying, which is in August—giving him several months to see if his campaign gains traction.

An Eaves spokesperson confirmed only that he will make a decision about the mayor’s race during the first week of March. He told the AJC, however, that he will file paperwork to begin raising funds tomorrow.

Eaves is currently halfway through his third four-year term as county board chairman. Since first taking office a decade ago, he’s had something of a wild ride during a time of unprecedented change for Fulton as one community after another has voted to form its own city. Following the examples of Chattahoochee Hills, Johns Creek, and Milton, the county’s last chunk of unincorporated land is scheduled to become the city of South Fulton later this year, having been approved by voters this past November.

Simply by virtue of having been elected county-wide three times now, Eaves would seem to enter the mayor’s race with enviable name recognition. And while he’s widely seen as smart—a former Fulbright scholar, he holds a doctorate in educational administration—and well-intentioned, he isn’t without baggage. Despite his image as a nice-guy politician, his notorious “dogs and water hoses” radio ad from the 2006 race is still considered one of the more scurrilous campaign ads of recent years. And his tenure could be seen as benignly ineffective as he strove to stop the splintering of the county and struggled to rein in his fellow commissioners.

Still, Eaves clearly sees an opening in the mayor’s race, perhaps because of recent ethics complaints that claim City Council President Ceasar Mitchell—considered a leading candidate—failed to disclose nearly $300,000 in campaign spending. (Mitchell’s spokeswoman says he was late filing disclosures.)

But Eaves’s political opponents don’t just include the names on the fall ballot. He’s long had a publicly contentious relationship with Mayor Kasim Reed, most recently tussling over the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority, which oversaw the sale of Turner Field last year. A well-known control freak, Reed is unlikely to sit on the sidelines if he thinks Eaves has a good shot at succeeding him as mayor.

In short, buckle up. This election season is about to get much more interesting.