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Voters likely to choose two candidates for Atlanta mayoral run-off

Voters are seeing 14 names on the ballot for mayor and this election will only settle that race if one of the fourteen candidates can win more than half the votes

ATLANTA — Early voting began Tuesday for the Atlanta mayor election plus city council and school board races.  

However, the city elections aren’t just about who wins the vote on November 2.  It can also be just as much about which candidate finishes in second place.

Voters are seeing 14 names on the ballot for mayor and this election will only settle that race if one of the fourteen candidates can win more than half the votes cast.  

"I doubt any of the major candidates thinks that they are going to win an outright majority of the vote," said Dr. Andra Gillespie, an Emory University political scientist.

An 11Alive News poll released last week showed that former mayor Kasim Reed has a nominal lead – but well below the fifty percent threshold. Council President Felicia Moore was second. Four more candidates were also within striking distance of second place.  

Recent election history has been very kind to second-place finishers in runoffs.

  • In 2018, now-Gov. Brian Kemp finished second to Casey Cagle in the Republican primary for governor. Kemp then beat Cagle to win the runoff.
  • In 2010, Nathan Deal finished second to Karen Handel in their primary for governor – but then Deal beat Handel in the runoff and became governor.
  • In 2009, Mary Norwood beat Kasim Reed in the Atlanta mayor’s race in November – but Reed leapfrogged ahead of Norwood to win the runoff.

"The people who finish in second, third, and fourth place -- and their supporters -- might be united in opposition to the person who finishes in first place," Gillespie said. 

This means second place is sometimes the best place to start a runoff.

However, Atlanta’s current mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms might disagree. She finished first in the 2017 city election and won the runoff a few weeks later – also against Mary Norwood.

This year, Norwood is running unopposed for a city council seat.