Former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed has formally announced plans to reclaim his role as the city’s leader just a month after Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced she would not seek reelection amid criticism from Reed and others about the rise in crime in the city.
Reed served as mayor for two terms, from 2010, up until he left office when Bottoms was elected. Bottoms announced in early May that she would not run again.
“The last three years have not been at all what I would have scripted for our city,” she said at an emotional press conference on May 7. Citing the 2018 cyberattack in which hackers targeted the city’s computer networks, and the federal investigation into corruption under Reed’s administration, Bottoms added, “that seemed to literally suck the air out of City Hall.”
Reed filed Declaration of Intent paperwork with the state on Tuesday, June 8, which will allow him to officially accept campaign donations. He formally announced his candidacy at a black-tie birthday bash on Thursday night.
“Atlanta, tell L.A., tell New York, tell Charlotte, tell Dallas, tell Chicago and definitely Miami. I’m back,” he told the crowd.
“And the reason that I am offering myself as mayor of this city is because at this moment, right here, right now, the future of the city that I love, and that has given me and all of us everything, is on the line.”
Reed hinted at the possibility of another run to lead the city in May, saying he’d already received “pretty exceptional financial commitments” for him to get into the race.
“I’m not going to play games about this, Reed said. “We’re moving at a deliberate pace seven days from the date that Mayor Bottoms made her announcement. And sometime in the very near future I’m going to make a judgment, and I’m going to make it known.”
As Bottoms has received criticism amid an increase in crime in Atlanta, Reed didn’t hold back on sharing his own criticism of the undesirable upward trend during an appearance on a popular radio show in April.
“The level of crime and violence is at unacceptable levels and it’s fracturing our city in a way I haven’t seen in my lifetime,” Reed said, adding that he doesn’t believe the spike is related to the pandemic.
“There are spikes in many cities around the country, but they are not at 60 percent,” Reed explained. “I don’t want us to act like crime is something new, but when I left office, crime was at the lowest it had been for 40 years.”
But Reed didn’t leave office under the most benign circumstances. Although Reed himself has never been charged or indicted for any crimes, his second term was fraught with controversy and his administration has been plagued by investigations that date back to 2015, but weren’t made public until 2017. Multiple members of his administration have been indicted on federal bribery charges, and Reed’s top financial officer Jim Beard has been charged with multiple counts of fraud. Beard pleaded not guilty and likely won’t face a jury until 2022.
Mitzi Bickers, who ran the Get Out The Vote portion of Reed’s first mayoral campaign and became his director of Human Services, pleaded not guilty to an 11-count indictment that alleges a $2 million bribery scheme. Her trial may not start until January. Reed’s press secretary Jenna Garland was also found guilty of violating Georgia’s Open Records Act.
Other contenders for the mayoral race include Atlanta City Council president Felicia Moore, District 3 City Councilman Antonio Brown, Post 3 Councilman Andre Dickens and attorney Sharon Gay.
“I would say he is in the top two or three out of the gate, but what he does with that remains to be seen,” said Channel 2 political analyst Bill Crane.