The race for Atlanta mayor now costs more than $10 million


The race for Atlanta mayor has already far outpaced the last wide-open contest for the city’s top job, totaling more than $10 million in campaign contributions and loans from the candidates, according to financial reports filed this week.

The infusion of cash poured into the race reflects how competitive Tuesday’s vote to succeed Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed remains as eight credible contenders, many of whom are proven fundraisers, compete for two spots in a December runoff.

At least six candidates have collected or loaned their campaigns more than $1 million, and several have dipped deeply into their bank accounts to help finance their bids. And most report six-figure troves for the final stretch.

They’ll be emptying out their accounts in the final tizzy before Tuesday’s vote, paying for pricey TV and radio ads, launching last-minute direct-mail campaigns and paying campaign staffers and canvassers. And the top two finishers on Wednesday will try to speedily reload their accounts ahead of December’s runoff.

The two front-runners in a Channel 2 Action News poll released Friday, Councilwomen Keisha Lance Bottoms and Mary Norwood, flexed their fundraising muscles in the final report before the vote, which spans from Sept. 30 to Oct. 25.

Bottoms outpaced every other competitor in that period with $277,000 in donations, helped in part by Reed’s endorsement. She reported roughly $132,000 in cash on hand for the final stretch.

Norwood, who bills herself as the race’s only independent candidate, took in about $127,000 over the same span, and she had about $282,000 left in her account.

Bottoms also held a slight lead in the Channel 2 poll of 750 likely voters, with 25.4 percent to 23.4 percent for Norwood. The 2-point lead fell within the poll’s margin of error of 3.6 percentage points. The poll, conducted Wednesday, showed only one other candidate in double digits, former Atlanta Chief Operating Officer Peter Aman at 12 percent.

In terms of fundraising, several other candidates besides Bottoms and Norwood are also well-stocked for the last stretch. Aman pumped an additional $80,000 of his own money into the campaign, and he had the biggest trove of cash on hand — $360,000 — among any of the leading contenders.

City Council President Ceasar Mitchell also topped the six-figure mark in the last push; he raised about $115,000 and had roughly $210,000 left. Several other candidates, including Councilman Kwanza Hall, former state Sen. Vincent Fort and ex-City Council President Cathy Woolard, had at least $100,000 left in the tank.

And Glenn Wrightson, a businessman waging a long-shot campaign as an outsider, reported loaning himself about $1 million for the final push. That sum helped finance a TV ad he recently released warning that the city’s “check engine light is on” and that he’s the only candidate who can fix it.

The jumble of competitors, many of whom are proven fundraisers, and the strong economy have raised the fundraising bar.

Contrast that to the 2009 race. In that contest, in the backdrop of a bruising recession, the three main competitors totaled about $5.8 million through the general election and the runoff. In 2001, Shirley Franklin collected about $4 million for her successful mayoral bid.

Many of the candidates are financed by familiar sources. Companies and individuals with a stake in city business have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the major candidates. And some corporate interests are hedging their bets, giving to multiple contenders.

Troutman Sanders, the powerful lobbying and law firm, contributed $1,000 each to the mayoral campaigns of Aman, Bottoms and Mitchell. And the Georgia Restaurant Association chipped in to four candidates: former Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, Fort, Norwood and Woolard.

Staff writer James Salzer contributed to this article.


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