Mayor Kasim Reed's colleagues at the U.S. Conference of Mayors hope he runs for governor.

Reed is attending his final conference as Atlanta mayor in New Orleans. Conference chairman Steve Benjamin, mayor of Columbia, S.C., gave Reed this sendoff on Friday: “I hope and pray that when Kasim Reed comes back, he’ll come back as governor of Georgia.”

The conference concludes Saturday.

Reed cannot run for reelection this fall, and the race to become Atlanta’s next mayor has drawn several challengers, including City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who came within 900 votes of becoming mayor herself eight years ago in a runoff with Reed.

In an exclusive 11Alive poll, Norwood is leading Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and other contenders in the race.

Georgia also has an open governor's race in 2018, as incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal cannot run for reelection. So far, four Republicans and two Democrats have announced candidacies.

Qualifying for Atlanta's mayor's race runs from August 22-25, and 11Alive will be profiling all of the candidates in this year’s election, which is already drawing national attention.