In Atlanta Mayoral Election, Does Race Matter?


This mayoral election, Atlanta voters are selecting from one of the numerous swimming pools of candidates in current historical past — numerous in that so many candidates are white.

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Black mayors have led the town for greater than 40 years. And the potential of that altering raises a query: Does race matter?

There are 10 folks within the race to develop into Atlanta’s subsequent mayor. The election is Tuesday. (WABE)

If you ask voters strictly about their prime points, race doesn’t usually come up.

Jack Brandon confirmed as much as a mayoral discussion board in Buckhead largely about site visitors. He stated he desires to see the following mayor tackle that.

“My road goes right out onto Peachtree Road,” Brandon stated. “So it’s a huge issue for me. Unless we have some sort of public transit, subway, something, the roads are only going to get worse.”

The following week, at a debate about housing within the Sweet Auburn Historic District, Melinda Weekes-Laidlow shared different issues.

“I care about the income inequality in the city. I care about the blight on the westside and southside. I care about homeownership and affordability,” Weekes-Laidlow stated.

These points have dominated a lot of the dialog this election — congestion on the northside of Atlanta and disinvestment on the southside. But can they be separated from race?

“Let’s be honest. Race is always there,” stated William Boone, a professor at Clark Atlanta University.

Boone research metropolis politics and his reply to that query is “No,” regardless of the picture Atlanta could market.

“Atlanta has tried to portray itself as a city that demonstrates how the races can operate harmoniously,” Boone stated. “But at the same time, race has been a very prominent component of the city’s history.”

He stated the result’s apparent: the southside, which has struggled to get growth, is generally black. The northside the place growth is sort of overwhelming? It’s predominantly white.

And when points break down by race, it’s simple to see how voters’ selections can fall alongside racial traces, too.

“If they feel traffic is their biggest issue, they will want candidates who understand the need to solve the congestion issue,” stated former Mayor Sam Mbadell. “I think it’s based on what you feel really represents your interests.”

Mbadell holds the title of Atlanta’s final white mayor. His marketing campaign for re-election in 1973 was defeated by Maynard Jackson, the town’s first black mayor.

Mbadell thinks this 12 months’s candidates are whiter due to consideration to the town’s altering demographics — that Atlanta has develop into whiter. He’s accepted race is a consider politics.

“People try to select candidates who will best understand their needs and their problems,” Mbadell stated. “That’s normal, I think. Whether you win or lose, you have to face up to that.”

But some argue that even when race influences sure points, it gained’t determine the election.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, who leads Ebenezer Baptist Church, for instance, stated no candidate ought to take votes within the black group without any consideration.

“There’s really too much at stake. There are a lot of people who are doing well. There are way too many people who have been stuck at the bottom of the bottom,” Warnock stated.

And they’ve been caught there regardless of who their mayor has been.

Warnock stated the election of the late Mayor Jackson was essential. But he expects voters this 12 months to think about every candidate.

“I think ordinary citizens are open and are wondering who is going to help move Atlanta forward not just for some Atlantans, but for all Atlantans,” he stated.

That’s one thing candidates have burdened over and over: they are going to be mayors for all of Atlanta, all communities. Race goes unacknowledged.

Emory University political science professor Michael Leo Owens stated he thinks that’s the hope for a lot of the citizens, however he has doubts that candidates will be “mayors for all” as soon as in workplace.

“I don’t think that mayors can equally distribute all the good things of governance to all parts of the city,” Owens stated. “And so that, of course, means you’ll have to have a mayor who’s willing to make very tough choices.”

And these selections could also be between one neighborhood’s want for aid from site visitors and one other neighborhood’s want for aid from blight.

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