Sandy Springs’ loss is Atlanta’s gain when it comes to the Nov. 20 Democratic presidential debate.
Though metro Atlanta was chosen as the city for the high-profile event hosted by the Washington Post and MSNBC, a specific site has not been publicly announced yet.
But Georgia Democratic Party leader Stacey Abrams, who ran for governor last year, posted a message on Twitter Oct. 25 announcing Tyler Perry Studios, located in Atlanta near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, will host the debate.
“Democratic Debate site is set: @TPStudios is a model for Georgia’s vibrant film industry, an engaged corporate citizen and an exceptional location for our #DemDebate. Looking forward to welcoming the candidates to Georgia on November 20. #gapol,” Abrams wrote.
The studios, which opened Oct. 5, are located on 330 acres of property that formerly housed the Fort MacPherson U.S. Army base. Perry, their owner, is an actor, writer, producer and director who has seen enormous success.
Also, hours after the AJC reported on the news, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, in a brief Oct. 26 interview with the Neighbor, said the city had lost its bid to host the event.
“We were going to have it at the Byers Theatre,” he said, referring to the 1,000-seat Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center inside the City Springs mixed-use development that opened in 2018. “They were going to use the Studio Theatre (a smaller event space) for their spin room and liked the City View Terrace (upstairs outdoor space) for reporters’ reports with the Atlanta skyline in the background.”
Paul also said he was disappointed the hotels in the city and surrounding areas lost out on all the rooms originally booked for the event.
In response to the Neighbor’s request for a longer interview with Paul, Sandy Springs spokeswoman Sharon Kraun said the city is not granting anymore interviews on the subject.
“We appreciate that the network recognized the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center as a world-class facility, more than capable of hosting such a prominent event,” she said. “Ultimately, debate organizers opted to go in a different direction. “
In a Sept. 21 letter to Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms wrote she wanted the debate to take place in that city.
“Our city and its leaders have had a long and strong affiliation with the Democratic Party. As Atlanta’s 60th mayor, it would be my honor to host such an important event for our party at this critical moment in the history of our democracy. Atlanta boasts a rich history of great leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President Jimmy Carter, Congressman John Lewis, Mayor Maynard Jackson and others, who have led fights on multiple fronts against bigotry, hatred and division to help create a more perfect Union.”
Bottoms also issued a statement Oct. 25 saying she is “proud that Atlanta has been chosen as the next debate site.”
“However, out respect for the party and the network, it would be inappropriate to speak on a location before they have issued a formal announcement,” she said.
When asked if Bottoms lobbied further after Sandy Springs was unofficially selected as the site for the debate, Michael Smith, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, said, “I cannot and would not speak for Sandy Springs or their claims. Mayor Bottoms made the case for Atlanta to host the event and Atlanta was chosen to host the event.”
Had the debate been held in Sandy Springs, it would have been in a city that has historically voted Republican in recent decades. But the City Springs site is in the Sixth Congressional District, where Democrat Lucy McBath defeated Republican Karen Handel last year in one of several local elections in which Democrats won seats in long-held Republican districts.
The Neighbor also has contacted the committee, Post and MSNBC media relations representatives to get comments from them on the debate site selection and is expecting their responses Oct. 28.