Quantifying the next City Council

The candidate roster is set for City Council, Mayoral and Board of Education elections in November. While early reporting has focused on new challengers taking on long-serving council members, the actual ballot numbers suggest that Atlanta will not see drastic changes in City Hall anytime soon.

Talk this summer has focused on an impending shakeup during the November 2017 Mayoral and City Council elections. While it is true that a new crop of ‘outsider’ candidates have entered the race, it is likely that 47% of the council will be filled with the same individuals as the past four years.*

At first glance it might appear that City Council is ready for change this coming November, as the number of qualified candidates running for a seat nearly doubled from the 2013 election field. But fifteen out of the sixteen City Council district members are vying for either re-election or a higher post (with several incumbents running unopposed). Within the Board of Education, eight out of the nine current members are re-running or running for seats higher up in City Council.

City Hall has been no stranger to controversy over the last legislative session. Since the 2013 election Atlanta City Council, the Office of the Mayor and the Board of Education have all been hit with ethics violations and internal corruption claims. November’s election will ultimately be a referendum on these twenty-three incumbents looking to maintain a position within Atlantan politics.

Where political shakeups are unlikely

Despite multiple high-profile controversies over the past few years, the latest polling by Landmark Communications/WSB-TV suggests that  ‘insider’ candidates have a strong early lead in the mayoral race. Three out of the top five candidates for mayor are all current or former city council members, suggesting that a familiar face is likely to hold the highest office in Atlanta next term.

A true ‘shakeup’ may be even less likely within the At-Large District Seats of City Council. The three At-Large positions are important because they can drastically shape the direction, priorities and demographic makeup of the council for the next legislative session. Yet two out of the three of these seats have an incumbent in the race. 

But what is more concerning for the future of Atlanta is that only one candidate for an At-Large seat in 2017 lives south of I-20.


Races to watch

All eyes have been on the mayoral race, as the legacy of Kasim Reed will be determined by an unlikely cast of characters.  Four candidates are current City Council members. Three others are well-known politicians from around the city and state. Four are political newbies.  Only three are female.

But district seats Four and and Eleven have pulled an incredibly large field of candidates. In the wake of multiple corruption scandals for current members Cleta Winslow, nine candidates have filed to run against her to represent Mechanicville and several surrounding Southwest Atlanta neighborhoods.

What this means for ATLproper

Passing laws for one of the largest capital cities in America is no small task. As the legislative wing of local government, City Council is key to the economic and social stability in individual neighborhoods and the city as a whole. Not only does the council oversee and allocate the city’s budget (currently at $637 million for fiscal year 2018), it also determines the outcome for everything from street names and monuments to the future of city transit.  However, only 93,759 people cast a ballot in the 2013 City Council/Mayoral elections, making it difficult to believe that City Council fully and accurately represents all of Atlanta Proper.

The voter registration deadline for the upcoming city elections is October 10. Check your voter status, or register online, here.

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