State News

November 3, 2013

Atlanta mayor seeks 2nd term in Tuesday’s election

Four years ago, it was a difference of 714 votes that carried Kasim Reed to victory in a fiercely contested race for Atlanta mayor.

Now, as Reed seeks a second term in Tuesday’s election, the hottest races might just be for City Council or the local school board. That’s not to say Reed doesn’t have any challengers, but in terms of pure money and name recognition, Reed has outpaced them all and is considered a favorite to secure a second, four-year term.

Reed, 44, is known for his strong support of President Barack Obama as well as his working relationship with Republican Gov. Nathan Deal on issues such as transportation and economic development. Last week, Obama endorsed Reed, saying the mayor has earned a second term.

“If you look at what we promised during the campaign and what we set out to do, he has delivered on everything we promised during that campaign,” said Tharon Johnson, a Democratic strategist and close Reed confidante who led Obama’s re-election campaign in the South.

That doesn’t mean Reed has been immune to criticism. Open government advocates have challenged Reed over a plan to use public financing to help support a new Atlanta Falcons stadium, while a group of street vendors have been loudly expressing their unhappiness since the city took steps to curtail the selling of goods on public streets.

And Reed made some waves among Democrats this summer when he spoke favorably of Deal, saying he had done a good job as governor. Reed, a former state lawmaker, said it’s been important for him to find common ground on issues that benefit the city.

“Anyone who has seen me advocate for this president and for Democrats, they will know that I am unwavering and unflinching in my support,” Reed said. “That doesn’t mean I should not work with Republicans to get concrete results for the citizens of Atlanta.”

In the nonpartisan race, Reed will face off against Al Bartell, Fraser Duke and Glenn Wrightson. All three candidates have not reported receiving any campaign contributions. Reed has raised $5.8 million and had $2 million in cash on hand at the start of October.

In making his case, Reed hopes voters will approve of efforts he’s made on pension reform, public safety and economic development. Reed said reforms to the pension system were critical considering costs were soaring while city revenues were falling. He also pointed to growing the city’s rainy day reserves from $7.4 million to $126 million.

“If the last three years hasn’t been a rainy day, I don’t know what is,” Reed said. “And in those times, we balanced four budgets and we’ve received an unqualified opinion from our auditor that our finances are in good shape. And I think, in these times, without raising property taxes, that is a pretty good achievement.”

Reed says his biggest disappointment in the past four years was the failure of a local penny-sales-tax plan to raise funds for transportation projects. The statewide referendum was defeated across much of the state. Reed said he and other supporters should have started earlier to communicate the importance of the plan.

Among Reed’s challengers, Bartell is perhaps best known. A certified mediator, Bartell has been a frequent candidate for elected office, including U.S. Senate and lieutenant governor. Bartell is calling for more public engagement to tackle issues like transportation and crime.

Wrightson is a consultant with experience in budget analysis who wants a review of water and sewer rates and wants to reduce the budget for the mayor’s office by 20 percent, according to his website. Duke is a certified financial planner who is calling for the city to keep the Georgia Dome and not tear it down to build a new Falcons stadium, according to his website.

William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, a government watchdog group who launched a petition drive seeking to block the public financing, said he was troubled by the way the project was handled and said more time should have been given for public input.

“We ended up coming out against public funding because of the process,” Perry said. “I think a lot of that process was led by the mayor running it through like a freight train.”

For his part, Reed said he knows one of his weaknesses is moving with a sense of urgency.

“I have a very strong desire to get things done because I understand what a four-year term is,” Reed said. “I would also argue that there were some things that I dealt with where urgency was needed.”

Polls will be open in Atlanta from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

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