Atlanta mayor candidates seek to show differences to voters
ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta’s two remaining mayoral candidates sought to differentiate themselves on Tuesday, a day before early voters begin casting ballots in the election to lead Georgia’s largest city.
City Council President Felicia Moore and Council Member Andre Dickens are vying in a Nov. 30 runoff after Moore led the first round of voting on Nov. 2 with 41% while Dickens finished second with 23%. With incumbent Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms not seeking another term and former Mayor Kasim Reed finishing third on Nov. 2, the city will be getting a new leader.
Confronting rising crime has been a major focus throughout the race. Like many cities across the country, Atlanta has experienced a spike in killings, with several high-profile homicides that have generated widespread attention. Other top concerns include housing prices and attempts by the wealthy Buckhead neighborhood to break away and form its own city.
Dickens, who was elected to the council in 2013, picked up enough momentum in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 vote to end Reed’s comeback bid for a third term. He attacked Moore in an Atlanta Press Club debate Tuesday for being too negative, having repeatedly voted against city budgets under Reed. He said Moore played the role of critic and doesn’t have results to show for her two decades on the council.
“You constantly don’t find a way to say yes,” Dickens said. “Real leadership looks like rolling up your sleeves and finding a way to say yes.”
Moore, though, noted that she had stepped into the race to challenge Bottoms, while Dickens waited until the mayor announced she wasn’t running again.
“I stepped into this race at a time when no one else had the courage to do it, to move the city forward, to help us at a time when we certainly have critical issues before us. I want to be our next mayor because I can make those tough decisions,” she said.
Moore argued her list of achievements goes “on and on,” including laws to create an inspector general and an independent contract procurement officer.
Both Moore and Dickens said they would audit some city departments to improve performance and save money. Both say they want to boost the number of police officers on the street. Both say they would seek to improve relations with the Republican-dominated state government to prevent lawmakers from authorizing a secession vote for Buckhead.
Moore represented part of the neighborhood earlier during her career on the council and has appeared to be the favored candidate among white voters so far.
Dickens has emphasized his effort to create and preserve affordable housing units amid gentrification pressure in historically African American neighborhoods, promising “development without displacement.” He also wants to create a chief education officer to coordinate with the Atlanta city school system, and do more to help longtime city residents get high-paying jobs.
“I want to create an Atlanta department of labor because people deserve to be able to earn a living in this city and get a great jobs,” Dickens said.
Moore said she’s focused on trying to bolster city services.
“You know we’re not getting our yard trimmings picked up,” she said. “People are accustomed as they’re driving down the street that you keep hitting those potholes. That service delivery has gone away.”
The race is nonpartisan but Moore and Dickens both identify as Democrats. Early in-person voting in the runoff begins Wednesday and continues for eight consecutive days through Nov. 24. About 96,000 people voted in the first round.
This story has been corrected. Dickens, not Reed, said: “You constantly don’t find a way to say yes ... Real leadership looks like rolling up your sleeves and finding a way to say yes.”
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