Andre Dickens, With Real Estate's Backing, Elected Next Mayor Of Atlanta
Andre Dickens, the Atlanta city councilman who emerged from a muddled field as a surprise contender, has won the election for mayor of Georgia’s capital city.
Dickens won in a resounding victory over Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore in the runoff Tuesday, despite finishing second in the general election. He inherits the leadership of a city facing rising crime rates, worsening housing affordability and Buckhead residents mounting efforts to form their own city. Dickens will succeed Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who announced earlier this year that she wouldn’t seek another term.
Dickens’ victory means that housing affordability will be a top priority in City Hall, said Karen Hatcher, the president-elect of the Atlanta Realtors Association, whose political action committee fund supported Dickens in the mayoral race.
“The biggest issue [Dickens is] going to have to face is our city is growing,” Hatcher said. "There is a demand, and it's going to continue to grow for higher density housing stock."
Dickens, who edged out former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in his bid to reclaim City Hall, had since earned the support of Bottoms as well as prominent Atlanta zoning and development attorney Sharon Gay, who finished fourth in the mayoral race Nov. 2.
Bottoms has made adding to Atlanta's affordable housing supply a priority in her administration. Moore and Dickens also highlighted rising rents and housing prices within the city as key issues during the campaign.
The city council has been evaluating changing local zoning codes to allow for more density through multifamily and affordable housing. But the move has helped to expose a rift between some stakeholders and residents in Buckhead, the wealthy neighborhood that accounts for 28% of all Atlanta's annual tax revenues. Those supporting a referendum to secede say a Buckhead government would better combat crime and control its own development and zoning efforts.
“[Dickens'] challenge will be how to meet the demand for higher-density housing stock, but keep the feel of what made Atlanta great in the first place,” Hatcher said. “He will continue to be collaborative, he will be open and be willing to hear from all sides.”
While crime and housing are likely to be among the first issues Dickens tackles, his administration has a battle ahead to keep Buckhead from becoming its own city, said Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the School for Public & International Affairs at the University of Georgia.
Since the Georgia state legislature would need to approve legislation to allow Buckhead cityhood to head to a vote, Dickens — leading the new administration in Atlanta — could convince lawmakers to give him more time to repair the rift with Buckhead, Bullock said.
“My guess is that the forces that are pushing for secession aren't going to be deterred by this. [Dickens’] hope will be is that he convinces the legislature to not allow this to pass to go for a vote,” he said. “‘I'm new on the job, give me a chance. Don't put this on the ballot for 2022 to allow a vote to secede.’”