Atlanta mayoral candidate drops out, endorses Ceasar Mitchell

Two weeks before the Atlanta mayoral election, one of the candidates to succeed Mayor Kasim Reed declared he is dropping out of the race.

Former city official Michael Sterling Tuesday morning announced his departure and simultaneously endorsed City Council President Ceasar Mitchell as the “best Democrat to win this election.”

Sterling, who was unable to gain traction in recent polls, said he decided to leave the race after his campaign couldn’t hit fundraising marks to reach out to more voters.

“While we believe our message has resonated, it’s become very clear to my campaign that we no longer have a path to victory,” Sterling said at Mitchell’s West End home, joined by their families. “Without jeopardizing what’s in the best interest of Atlanta ... we believe we’ve got to put our support behind someone who shares our values, who shares our commitment to building a better Atlanta.” 

RELATED: Ceasar Mitchell responds to corruption comment

Early voting has already begun, and Sterling’s name will remain on the Nov. 7 election ballot. But he said any votes for him were not wasted in the mission to unify the city: “This isn’t an ending, it’s a beginning.”

Waiting to declare defeat until voting is over would have been worse, Sterling added.

Sterling’s endorsement for Mitchell sends a signal in a crowded race, Mitchell said, that “having a real track record to run on” matters.

“I think it’s important to note that I am — and make no bones about it — I am the only Democrat that can win this race,” Mitchell said. “I certainly understand what it means to work well with others to set a new tone at City Hall.”

RELATED: Candidates closing in on front-runner in Atlanta mayor's race

Sterling, former head of the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, earned a “well qualified” review from the Committee for a Better Atlanta in September.

Recent polling shows Councilwoman Mary Norwood with a lead and Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms emerging in second place. The most likely scenario is that the top two finishers in the election will head to a runoff in December.

The mayoral election is non-partisan. Bottoms has self-identified as a Democrat; Norwood is a self-identified independent.

With one poll showing 14 percent of voters are undecided, all of the top eight candidates — which also include former state Sen. Vincent Fort (D), Councilman Kwanza Hall (D), former Council President Cathy Woolard (D), former COO of the city of Atlanta Peter Aman (D) and former Fulton County Chairman John Eaves (D) — have a shot at being in that final contest. 

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