Atlanta’s municipal election season officially began Monday as officeholders and their challengers entered a weeklong qualifying period.
Mayor Kasim Reed, who faces little real opposition for his second term, kicked off the proceedings with a rally as candidates for City Council seats and the Atlanta school board officially filed paperwork for their respective nonpartisan races.
Municipal elections are being held statewide this November. In Atlanta, Reed’s re-election is all but a certain victory, so eyes are turning toward council races as competitions to watch.
But that didn’t stop the mayor from touting his successes on City Hall steps Monday. A jovial Reed, who has raised more than $2.5 million in recent years and has more than half of that in his campaign war chest, said he held the event to dispel any rumors he is eyeing a higher office — at least for the next four years.
The event comes days after Reed was elected to the Democratic National Committee’s executive committee, a confirmation of his growing national status. The mayor also made passing mention of a trip to Washington this week, where he’ll join President Barack Obama in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
“Hopefully now that I’ve qualified and paid my qualifying fees, nobody thinks there is any other job that would take me away from the city of Atlanta,” he told a crowd of supporters and a handful of protesters from the Atlanta Vendors Association, upset that after a long legal battle with the city they are still unable to sell their goods on public streets.
“I got my dream job,” he later added. “I think I make being mayor look real sexy.”
Flanking the mayor were a number of council members, including District 10 Councilman C.T. Martin, District 11 Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, District 12 Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd and Post 3 At-Large Councilman Lamar Willis.
By the end of the day Monday, nobody had filed to run against Reed, though Al Bartell, a public policy activist, has said he will enter the mayor’s race.
It wasn’t so quiet for council members, many of whom learned of some of their formal competition.
Little-known candidate Michael Jackson is challenging Sheperd. Candidate Robert Welsh, who works within the state’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, is running for District 1 Councilwoman Carla Smith’s long-held seat. District 3 Councilman Ivory Lee Young will take on the Rev. Darrion Fletcher of Vine City. District 4 Councilwoman Cleta Winslow will run against West End resident DeBorah “Sister” Williams. And District 9 Councilwoman Felicia Moore is facing challenger Duwon Mooley Robinson, whose website describes him as a former sports agent.
Whether or not the council sees record competition this year remains to be seen. The job became considerably more attractive after they voted to give themselves a 50 percent raise last December, increasing their annual salary to more than $60,000 effective in 2014.
To qualify, candidates must pay a fee equating to 3 percent of the current salary of the office. For mayoral candidates, that’s around $4,400, City Council hopefuls must pay around $1,200 and school board members will owe $444.
City office candidates have through Friday to file the necessary paperwork to run.
PLENTY OF OTHER RACES IN METRO ATLANTA
Cities and city school systems across metro Atlanta are gearing up for elections this November.
This is the week most candidates can qualify to run for office, and there will be some interesting local contests from Alpharetta to Riverdale.
The most complete and updated information on how to qualify, how much it costs and what a candidate needs to do will be found on cities’ websites, and potential candidates need to check carefully. For instance, qualifying in Alpharetta takes place through Wednesday. In Forest Park, qualifying is open through Friday.
In Cobb County, elections are scheduled for various posts in five of the county’s six cities — Acworth, Austell, Kennesaw, Marietta and Powder Springs.
The region will see some new faces, along with losing some familiar ones. Voters in Sandy Springs will select a new mayor, following Eva Galambos’ decision to step down after eight years running metro Atlanta’s second-largest city. Elections also will be held for six council member seats.
Just up the road, Roswell will elect or re-elect three City Council members and a mayor.
In Gwinnett County, some of the largest cities are holding races. In Norcross, two incumbent council members are up for re-election, along with Mayor Bucky Johnson. Qualifying runs through Friday.
In Lawrenceville, two council seats are up, and in Peachtree Corners, which though just a year old is Gwinnett’s largest city with more than 34,000 residents, three council members are up for re-election. Qualifying runs through Friday in Lawrenceville but just through Wednesday in Peachtree Corners.
-- Jaime Sarrio
-- Christopher Quinn