By Maynard Eaton
It’s on and popping! The 2017 Atlanta mayor’s race is heating up, and the field of candidates is growing exponentially. After months of speculation Councilman Kwanza Hall admitted he “is definitely” running to become the 60th mayor of Atlanta in 2017.
“I’m telling you now that I am definitely going to run,” Hall told WSB – TV newsman Craig Lucie in Philadelphia during an interview at the Democratic National Convention. The potent and personable District 2 Councilman was a Georgia delegate. He added, “I just haven’t announced it yet,”
When contacted since his return home to Atlanta this week, Councilman Hall confirmed to The Maynard Report: “I’m telling you this straight-up. The answer is yes. We are planning the [announcement] date.”
“Councilman Hall has represented the 2nd district with distinction,” says former Georgia
Democratic Party political strategist and syndicated talk radio host Rashad Richey. “This upcoming Atlanta mayoral race will have a great roster of talent and Kwanza is definitely one of them.”
Atlanta reporter Lucie also asked former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin if she was seeking her third term as Mayor. Franklin smiled coyly before admitting she was wavering and had not made up her mind yet.
“I may or may not,” said Franklin, who was Atlanta’s mayor from 2002 to 2010, and the city’s first female mayor.
“Shirley Franklin is the wild card,” says conservative political commentator Shelley Wynter. “If she does get in she has the support of the entire Democrat party apparatus.”
Jim Welcome, , the executive director of the well-liked Atlanta political TV show NEWSMAKERS Live, also likes Shirley Franklin’s chances of coming back as Atlanta’s political boss, though he supported Councilwoman Mary Norwood’s mayoral bid seven years ago.
“If Franklin throws her hat in the ring all of the other candidates had better bring their A+ game because Shirley Franklin’s ground game has been the best I’ve ever seen in any election in the past 30 years,” Welcome says. “She comes hard and has very little for the voters to be against her about given her last term in office.”
Hall represents the city’s most diverse and, arguably, most dynamic council district – which includes neighborhoods such as Midtown, Downtown, Inman Park, Poncey-Highland, Candler Park, Atlantic Station, Sweet Auburn, The Martin Luther King District and the Old Fourth Ward .
First elected in 2005, the veteran Councilman may have already seized the day and set the early mayoral debate with his so-called “Broken Windows” package of legislation aimed at arrest diversion and criminal justice reform that has been both panned and praised by political pundits and community leaders. It is a platform issue that will be the focus of his mayoral candidacy, he says.
“Absolutely, this is just one of many justice reform measures that we have rolled out,” Hall says. “The first was ‘Banning the Box’, which we did a couple of years ago. And, we are currently in the middle of a design change for pre-arrest diversion. These additional pieces of legislation further complement what we’re on a strong path to achieve. The grand scheme is to really re-engineer our justice system. I think it is possible to make it work for all people.”
There are many who suggest that Hall represents the most powerful City Council district in the city of Atlanta because of its plethora of Fortune 500 companies and its diverse ethnic and economic mix. Seemingly that is the source and substance of his pending candidacy; some supporters even argue that politically Kwanza Hall is “Mr. City of Atlanta” given his popularity with the “haves and have not” coupled with his political clout with corporate captains.
“We are in a very unique place and we have a very strong track record in terms of delivering consistently for the constituents of District 2 that have a broader impact on our city,” says the son of former SCLC leader and confidant to Dr. King, the late Leon Hall. “I see Atlanta as a whole, but there has been a tremendous amount of growth and change and development in Council District 2 and the center of the city that reflects very well on part of our track record. It’s also an abbreviation as to what the rest of the city could look like with the appropriate policies built in around non-displacement, affordable housing, and well done planning that can make our neighborhoods far more whole, more equitable and inclusive.”
He is ubiquitous and dutiful and energetic. Kwanza is everywhere, doing everything to help, impress and expand his political brand – and often photographed prominently on TV news shows and Face Book in the process. He has a star quality about himself—with a polished presence that exudes style, class and gravitas.
“He’s got swag,” smiles accomplished art curator Robin Ligon-Williams. “My 23-year-old daughter who is a children’s dance instructor, says “No Mom, Kwanza is ‘On Fleek’.”
Kwanza Hall is the quintessential young Black urban politician on the rise – a Senator Cory Booker type – reportedly ready for primetime. Winning this 2017 Atlanta Mayor’s race would put him squarely in the national political limelight – much like it has done for Mayor Kasim Reed and others before him. This job is a jewel.
“Kwanza Hall, although a great councilman who has an incredible amount of support from both the white and gay community in his district, may find it hard to attract the hard core white right wing voter in a citywide election,” says Jim Welcome, who offers biting political commentary at the conclusion of our NEWSMAKERS Live shows over the past decade. “Still the cadre of black candidates may push themselves out of the projected runoff.”
And, while Councilman Hall courts corporate captains, he also found time to appear and speak and participate in conversations over three days about the pervasive problems of poverty, police brutality and economic injustice at the recently concluded SCLC National Convention. His late father, Leon Hall, was a revered SCLC foot soldier and fierce activist.
Kwanza echoes his parents’ social consciousness spirit and civil rights passions. Black Lives Matter activists argue that some of the “broken windows” policies are now unnecessary – that they clog jails and harkens back to Jim Crow. The broken windows theory, introduced in the early 1980s, holds that small problems unaddressed lead to bigger problems.
“We totally want to maintain safety and a degree of order,” opines Hall. “When we talk about ‘Broken Windows’ the thing that’s good about it is fixing dilapidated structures and insuring the neighborhoods look clean and feel safe, but we are not fixing broken people. That’s the part that is sorely missing—the human development, the human capital and the focus on including all human beings in the growth of our city. What we are suggesting through this legislation is that we look we look at it from the other side of the coin. We have been attacking these problems from just one side for the past 30 years. Let’s change the table for bringing all people forward.”
Hall’s almost certain entry into the 2017 mayoral free-for-all pits him against his colleague and contemporary, City Council President Caesar Mitchell. Both are native sons; both are bumping heads in a race that may well determine their respective bright political futures. It amounts to yet another shoot out, and showdown between two “Young Gun” African American politicos.
Other likely mayoral hopefuls include: Cathy Woodard, former Atlanta City Council President; Peter Amman, former Chief Operating Officer of Atlanta; Al Bartell, a Certified Public Policy Mediator who is running as a Green Party candidate; Margaret Kaiser, outgoing State Representative; Keisha Lance Bottoms, the District 11 Atlanta City Councilmember and Executive Dir. of the Atlanta – Fulton County Stadium Authority; Vincent Fort, Georgia State Senator; Michael Sterling, Executive Director at Atlanta Workforce Development Agency and Mary Norwood, Atlanta City Councilmember (Post 2 At Large) and candidate for Mayor in 2009.
If Mayor Franklin enters and City Councilwoman Mary Norwood does as well, you will likely have three women candidates who have mounted successful city wide campaigns at various levels- City Council, Council president and Mayor. That coupled with all the other announced and prospective mayoral candidates, this promises be the most captivating and compelling vote since the historic election of Maynard Jackson in 1973. We may also have seen our last African American Atlanta Mayor, some cheer and others lament.
“Kwanza and Caesar [Mitchell] will cannibalize each other,” opines the acerbic conservative wordsmith Shelley Wynter. “But pay close attention to Senator Vincent Fort because if he gets in the race, he pulls the Bernie Sanders vote. And, I think all three them in the race will allow a white mayoral candidate to win a runoff race.” Hmmmm.