Atlanta is known for its reality shows. From Love and Hip-Hop to the Housewives; you can’t turn on your televisions without enough yelling, cursing and fighting to make you embarrassed to say that you are from here. But this year, the best reality show of television has been “The Real Mayoral Candidates of Atlanta.”
The show has it all. Alliances, backstabbing, intrigue and even a brewing race war. But the difference between this show and the others is that what is at stake is not a record contract or spinoffs, but rather the future of this city and indeed the entire region.
Let’s break down the characters:
First, you have Ceasar Mitchell, the rightful heir to the throne of Atlanta. He has delayed his run for Mayor by 8 years and served the community as Council President. He has strong ties to the community and the support of many of the leading voices of Atlanta. However, due to a brewing feud with from ally, and current Mayor Kasim Reed, Mitchell languishes in 4th place in the polls with slim chances of victory.
Next, there is Mary Norwood, resurrecting herself from the ashes of a 2009 campaign which she lost by a hare’s breath. Norwood hopes to not be Atlanta’s version of Hillary Clinton and finally ascend to the highest office in the land. She has been campaigning for 20 years for this job and is a known quantity in a city field of unknowns. However, Norwood has failed to connect with young voter and black voters, relying solely on coalition of the elderly and Buckhead elites.
Then there is Keisha Lance-Bottoms, the chosen successor to the current Mayor. She has the support of the State Democratic Party and a stellar record in the community. However, Keisha’s greatest asset is also her greatest curse, by tying herself so closely to the current Mayor she also inherits much of his baggage. By failing to define herself as anything but a third term of Kasim Reed leaves her vulnerable to candidates with a message of “Hope and Change” promising reforms to City Hall.
Next there is Vincent Fort, the change agent. Vincent is supported by everyone from Sen. Bernie Sanders to Rapper Killer Mike and has been a tireless crusader for the rights of the People over those of corporate interest. He is immensely popular among young voters and progressives, but trails among the electorate which actually vote in municipal elections. In what will be a low turnout election, Fort will find it difficult to win in his hippy liberals who show up at rallies don’t turn out on election day.
Peter Aman has risen as the surprise challenger to Mary Norwood as “the Great White Hope”. Aman has a natural charm and charisma as well as comfort around Black people, particularly while addressing Black issues that Norwood lacks. He has assembled the best, most savvy and competent campaign staff whom have taken him from unknown to contender. His greatest enemy is his race. In a city still divided along racial lines, Aman must convince a weary electorate that he is not simply another corporate gentrifier but rather a true ally of the people. But by leaching support from Norwood as well as being the clear alternative to quibbles among the Black candidates, Aman may be able to build a winning coalition.
Finally, we have the Wildcards; Kwanzaa Hall, Cathy Woolard and John Eaves. None of these candidates have a chance to win (sorry). But each represents an important constituency with the power to sway the election.
Kwanzaa has represented downtown Atlanta well while in City Council. However, his campaign was doomed before it began when he appeared at a press conference in some white people’s backyard to address crime in Midtown but, in the view of many, did not do the same to address crime in Black communities. However, he remains a young and energetic voice with significant support. If Kwanzaa were to align himself with Ceasar Mitchell it could well spell the end of Keisha Lance-Bottom’s hold of the second position in the Run-off.
Cathy Woolard is a strong advocate for the LGBTQUIPK+ community but has not done much to expand her support outside of the Poncey-Highlands. Many voters either have no idea who she is or only know her as the “Gay lady running.” Her lack of campaigning outside of her comfort have shown that she is an issue based candidates as opposed to a serious threat to win. If Woolard sides with Aman he may be able to overtake Norwood for the pole position heading into the Run-off.
Finally, John Eaves is running for some reason. His candidacy was doomed from the beginning by a very public spat with the current mayor in which the Atlanta Hawks even came in to rebuke Eaves. He has not picked up any traction since then, even with huge name equity and ties to the community. Eaves now may play the role of disrupter. His ground game in senior communities is exceedingly valuable while his name would add legitimacy to any candidate that he endorses. An alliance between him and Vincent Fort could be just the mix needed to shake up the race in the final weeks.
In the end, the Wildcard candidates will be the Kingmakers in this race. This reality show is headed for a second season with a run-off clearly in sight. The only thing that we know for sure is that this election will again go down to the wire and Atlanta will be picking from their favorite characters on The Real Mayoral Candidates of Atlanta.