In less than 3 weeks, voters in the city of Atlanta will cast their ballots to determine who will be the city’s next Mayor–a powerful and high-profile position that puts the winner in charge of one of the nation’s most important and most populous cities.
Nearly a dozen people initially qualified to run. Among them, three White candidates–city councilwoman Mary Norwood; former city council president Cathy Woolard; and former chief operating officer under current Mayor Kasim Reed, Peter Aman.
A runoff is expected and polls show a tight race: Norwood, who is widely expected to make the runoff, leads the pack at around 25% support.
The closest Black candidate, city council member Keshia Lance-Bottoms, has surged to around 17% support.
Remaining candidates have polled at or near the single digits.
Polls have consistently indicated a White candidate could win the mayor’s seat next month.
In fact, Norwood ran against Reed in 2008–and lost by just more than 700 total votes.
The city’s first Black Mayor, Maynard Jackson, won his office in 1974 in a tough race that featured clear racial undertones.
In the post-segregation era, Black Atlantans led the effort to transform Atlanta from a sleepy, country town where racism and Jim Crow ran deep, into a thriving metropolis filled with many highly educated middle and upper-middle class African Americans who for years, would be governed by an almost exclusively Black political power structure.
Soon, people of color flooded into the city from all points beyond, chasing their American Dream in the Black Folks version of the Land of Milk and Honey–and further solidifying ATL as Chocolate City.
So a White mayoral candidate winning election in Atlanta seemed unthinkable just a short time ago–especially in a city long regarded as The Black Mecca: a center of political dominance and economic prosperity for Black Americans across the country.
Over the last 20 years, the city has also cemented itself as the home of Black and Urban music, most notably, Hip Hop, and also Black film and TV, so much so that the city also enjoys recognition for being “The Black Hollywood”.
But changing demographics have altered the social and political landscape of Atlanta.
The city’s once-massive project apartments are essentially gone. High-rise and high-cost apartments, condos and multi-use developments have sprung up in droves.
Once majority-Black areas are now turning White and multi-cultural, as an influx of higher-earning Whites and other ethnic groups have moved into the core city, which is now in a state of constant development and redevelopment.
There’s also a rising cost of living in the city, with property rates rising significantly.
Meanwhile, many Blacks have found homes in the suburbs outside of Atlanta, where their influence is now being felt: nearly half a dozen counties in the immediate vicinity surrounding Atlanta are now majority-Black.
Atlanta last elected a White mayor in 1970.