Atlanta – City Council member Andre Dickens won the runoff election on Tuesday to become Atlanta’s next mayor, boosting the support of the council’s current president, Felicia Moore, after she finished second in November.
Concerned about the growing violent crime in the city, Dickens won the campaign, arguing that he was more effective than Moore, who was an occasional critic of former mayors in the City Council for 20 years. Of the 14 candidates in the non-party race, Moore was the leading candidate in the first round of voting on November 2 by a wide margin.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms created a wide-open succession race when he announced in May that he would not seek a second term.
The 47-year-old Dickens, Atlanta native and engineer by training, joined the council in 2013. He argued that his broad range of experience allows him to address crime and other urban issues, including affordable housing and better opportunity for poor residents. Other issues of the race include strengthening struggling urban services and keeping the affluent Buckhead neighborhoods separate.
“We voted for progress, for problem solving, for bridge building, for conversion,” Dickens told a crowd of hundreds during his victory speech Tuesday night. “And this work starts now. We can’t wait any longer to address these issues.”
Dickens went to the runoff with a second-place finish on November 2, not far behind the pack, with two-term former mayor Kasim Reed finishing third. That snowball support continued in the runoff with the approval of Bottoms, US Representative and Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Nikema Williams, Fulton County District Attorney Fanny Willis, and attorney Sharon Gay, who finished fourth in the Nov. 2 ballot.
“I draw circles, I don’t draw streaks,” Dickens said. “And tonight’s circle is big.”
Like many cities around the country, Atlanta is facing an increase in murders. Atlanta police data shows that as of Nov. 13, sales were up 10% over the same period last year and 57% compared to 2019. A number of killings among them received widespread attention.
Dickens has pledged to increase the number of police officers, arrest gang leaders and enforce community policing. They say current police chief Rodney Bryant, who is out of retirement in 2020, could be put in place after former chiefs stepped down following a deadly police shooting on a black man who caused unrest.
Dickens wants to increase affordable housing, improve infrastructure and ensure current residents qualify for high-paying jobs. He acknowledged the city’s problems Tuesday night, but later turned to optimism about the city’s changing potential.
“As they say, Atlanta influences everything,” Dickens said. “And it’s time we use that influence to make some real changes. Atlanta needs to show the world what we’re leading. We’re leading the way in public safety, criminal justice reform, we’re tackling affordable housing and inequality. We have.”
Moore, 60, called for unity in his concession speech, saying there was no difference between his supporters and Dickens because “we are all Camp Atlanta.”
“Everyone should call us to do the work we want them to do, and that will bring this city together,” Moore said, specifically calling on Buckhead residents to work with Dickens and reject exclusivity and ensure Dickens gives them access. For all groups.
Alexander Dawes, a 25-year-old black man, said he voted for Dickens on Tuesday at Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church. Dawkins said transparency – and his stance on public safety – were key factors in his decision.
Bringing more officers to the streets is part of the solution, he said.
“I think there are many ways to solve crime,” Dawes said. “Of course, staff are important but they have current officers in the community. It’s important to rebuild that trust between the police and the community.”
Jennifer and Joe Moyers, 60, said they voted for Moore. Jennifer Moyers said she was a candidate who was very focused on curbing crime.
Some critics of Moore attacked her as a favorite of white voters, a frequent tactic in a city divided by income and geography by many white and black voters. Both Moore and Dickens are black. Moore dismissed the idea that her support should be held against her.
Moore proposed his record to appeal to hungry voters for change and to position himself as a person who brings accountability and transparency to City Hall. But Dickens portrayed Moore as a naysayer and a man who couldn’t work with others.
Dickens currently works for Techbridge, which tries to use technology to help other charitable groups. Dickens founded a program that trains people for technology jobs by trying to expand access to high-paying jobs in Atlanta. He first ran a family-owned furniture store chain that collapsed in bankruptcy a decade ago, accusing Dickens of the effects of the Great Depression.