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Dickens Wins Atlanta Mayoral Race      12/01 06:15

   

   ATLANTA (AP) -- City Council member Andre Dickens won a runoff election 
Tuesday to become Atlanta's next mayor, riding a surge of support that powered 
him past the council's current president, Felicia Moore, after finishing second 
to her in November.

   Dickens won a campaign dominated by concern over rising violent crime in the 
city, arguing he would be more effective than Moore, who had often been a 
sometimes-lonely critic of previous mayors in her 20 years on the City Council. 
Moore had been the leading candidate by a wide margin in the first round of 
voting on Nov. 2 among 14 candidates in a nonpartisan race.

   Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms created a wide-open succession race when she 
announced in May that she wouldn't seek a second term.

   The 47-year-old Dickens, an Atlanta native and engineer by training, joined 
the council in 2013. He argued that his broad range of experience would allow 
him to address crime and other city issues including affordable housing and 
improving opportunity for poorer residents. Other issues in the race included 
bolstering struggling city services and keeping the wealthy Buckhead 
neighborhood from seceding.

   "We voted for progress and a problem solver, for a bridge builder, for 
transformation," Dickens told a crowd of hundreds during his victory speech 
Tuesday night. "And this work will start right now. We can't wait any longer to 
address these issues."

   Dickens went from trailing the pack to take second on Nov. 2 and make the 
runoff, ending the comeback attempt of two-term former Mayor Kasim Reed, who 
finished third. That snowballing support continued in the runoff, with 
endorsements by Bottoms, U.S. Rep. and Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Nikema 
Williams, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Sharon Gay, an 
attorney who finished fourth in Nov. 2 voting.

   "I draw circles, I don't draw lines," Dickens said. "And the circle tonight 
got real large."

   Like many cities across the country, Atlanta has been dealing with a spike 
in killings. As of Nov. 13, homicides rose 10% over the same period last year 
and 57% compared with 2019, Atlanta police data shows. Several of those 
killings captured widespread attention.

   Dickens has pledged to increase the number of police officers, arrest gang 
leaders and implement community policing. He says he may keep current Police 
Chief Rodney Bryant, who came out of retirement in 2020 after a previous chief 
stepped down following a fatal police shooting of a Black man that led to 
unrest.

   Dickens also wants to increase affordable housing, improve infrastructure 
and ensure current residents qualify for high-paying jobs. He acknowledged the 
city's problems Tuesday night, but then pivoted to optimism about the city's 
ability to change.

   "Like they say, Atlanta influences everything," Dickens said. "And it's time 
that we use that influence to make some real change. Atlanta needs to show the 
world that we are leading, that we are leading on public safety, on criminal 
justice reform, that we are leading on affordable housing and eliminating the 
inequality that we have."

   Moore, 60, made a call for unity in her concession speech, saying there's no 
difference between her supporters and Dickens' because "we're all camp Atlanta."

   "We have to be called to do the thing that we wanted everyone else to do, 
and that's bring this city together," Moore said, specifically calling on 
Buckhead residents to work with Dickens and spurn secession and for Dickens to 
make sure he gives access to all groups.

   Alexander Dawes, a 25-year-old Black man, said he voted for Dickens on 
Tuesday at Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church. Dickens' transparency -- and 
his stance on public safety -- were key factors in his decision, Dawes said.

   Getting more officers on the streets is only part of the solution, he said.

   "I think there are multiple approaches to address crime," Dawes said. "Of 
course, staffing is important but also having officers present in the 
community. That's important to build back that trust between the police and the 
community."

   Jennifer and Joe Moyers, both 60, said they voted for Moore. She was the 
candidate who had the most focus on curbing crime, Jennifer Moyers said.

   Some of Moore's critics attacked her as the favorite of white voters, a 
frequent tactic in a city where many white and Black voters are divided by 
income and geography. Both Moore and Dickens are Black. Moore dismissed the 
notion that her support should be held against her.

   Moore touted her record to appeal to voters hungry for change and position 
herself as someone who would bring accountability and transparency to City 
Hall. But Dickens portrayed Moore as a naysayer and someone who has been unable 
to work with others.

   Dickens currently works for TechBridge, a nonprofit that tries to use 
technology to aid other charitable groups. Dickens also founded a program to 
train people for technology work, trying to broaden access to high-paying jobs 
in Atlanta. He earlier ran a family-owned furniture store chain that collapsed 
in bankruptcy a decade ago, something that Dickens blamed on the effects of the 
Great Recession.

 
 
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