Qualifying for the local municipalities in the Nov. 7 elections, taking place Aug. 21 through 25, could be a sign of how each city’s residents feel about the jobs their sitting mayor and council members are doing.
In Atlanta, a total of 107 candidates qualified in four days for the mayoral, city council president, city council and board of education elections. There are 15 council seats and nine school board posts.
The storyline in that city has been the mayoral race, where 13 candidates (including the council president and four council members) qualified to replace incumbent Kasim Reed, who is term limited. Also, three other council members are running for council president.
While all of the seats opened by sitting officials running for higher officer or those who decided not to seek reelection created opportunities for new candidates to take their place, it does not tell the whole story. Of the 26 seats up for grabs, 14 races include incumbents who have opposition in their runs for reelection.
Post 2 a-large Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, a Buckhead resident who is running for mayor, said she believes the council “works very hard” to serve its constituents.
“I’ve worked with many of these council people for many years,” said Norwood, who was first elected to the council in 2001 and took four years off after losing to Reed in a runoff in 2009. “We have a mayor-strong form of government. The mayor controls an awful lot of what happens in the city. The council members work very hard to serve those communities and to represent those communities.”
When asked about the number of candidates running in all Atlanta races, she said she was surprised four mayoral candidates qualified on the last day of qualifying but had not looked at the lists of other candidates qualifying.
“I think this is a very unusual election,” Norwood said of the overall numbers. “In all of my years, I've never seen this many candidates for many of these positions. I've never heard of a mayoral election with this many candidates.”
In Brookhaven and Sandy Springs, qualifying was much quieter, partly because each city’s council is much smaller than Atlanta’s.
In Brookhaven, only two of the council’s four seats – Districts 2 and 4 – are up for reelection, and only three candidates qualified during the three-day period (both incumbents qualified along with one other candidate). The mayor and District 1 and 3 posts will be up for reelection in 2019.
District 2 Councilman John Park, who was first elected in 2014, said the lack of candidates opposing the incumbents shows the council is working hard for its constituents. But he added he doesn’t overanalyze the number of candidates qualifying.
“Actually I don’t think it says that much, which is why I continue to reach out to those that may think differently from what we’re doing,” Park said. “We’re doing our best to not work in a ‘bubble.’”
In Sandy Springs, where the mayor and four of the six council members earlier this year announced they were running for reelection, none of the incumbents have opposition, after mayoral candidate David Crim withdrew from the race. It’s a far cry from 2013, when a bevy of candidates, including some representing the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, challenged the incumbents. All but one challenger, Ken Dishman, lost.
District 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio, the only council member who has been in office since it incorporated in 2005, said the lack of candidates in this year’s election is a sign Sandy Springs’ residents are happy with their elected officials.
“In my eyes,” he said, “… the citizens are telling us is they’re very pleased with the way the city is being run, the way the finances are is being run, the way the city’s infrastructure is coming along and the way the Next Ten (the city’s comprehensive plan) was handled. And apparently the residents feel very confident in the council.”
In each of DeJulio’s previous three elections, he was opposed, but this year he is not. He said is not surprised at the lack of candidates running against the incumbents, adding he gets feedback from residents almost every day, and it’s been positive.
“I think the citizens have spoken,” DeJulio said of qualifying. “It wasn’t an election, but it was the precursor to the election. The citizens are saying, ‘Things are going the way we want them to go. Let’s let the people who have started this job go ahead and continue what they’re going.’”