Why he’d run: He is effectively the leader of the Democratic Party of Georgia. He’s probably tired of not being able to accomplish the big ideas the city needs because of the financial roadblocks the state lays in the way. Additionally, legislative positions are lovely because you get to pick your priorities in a way that executives cannot. He could raise money without declaring by continuing to campaign for reelection (different cycle and level of race so wouldn’t require resignation at any point).
Why he wouldn’t: It is too soon for him and the state. While Georgia is trending Democratic, it isn’t there yet. He has made strides as Mayor and is generally well -regarded, but he doesn’t have that one big accomplishment he needs to put down on his resume. Being a reasonable effective and not overtly corrupt big-city mayor is not quite enough – but maybe two terms of that plus the Beltline would be.
Why he’d win: His presence in the Democratic Primary would keep anyone else who could actually raise money out of it. He’s come into the General with 2 million at a minimum in hand against the survivor of a nasty slugfest from the Republican primary (or even runoff). The winner has burnished/developed his/her conservative philosophy to the point where actual Philistines are looking for a more reasonable choice. The Republican Senate Campaign Committee is fighting a multi-front war and doesn’t appreciate the threat quickly enough and is late with its media buy, and Kasim’s positives hit 60. Republican nominee’s knee-jerk reaction is a social attack based on the Reed’s bachelorhood repeating the Lipstick Alley type allegations combined with his support for gay marriage and it backfires. 51-45 with the Libertarian taking 6.
Why he’d lose: He’d win the Democratic primary without a real challenge, but in the general, the flack from the continued airport scandal, combined with the natural dislike of anything Atlanta and strong connection to Obama (whose popularity has suffered with his mandatory gun buy back program and the now-emboldened rampaging deer which have made Atlanta’s northern suburbs unsafe at night) would be his undoing. His stance on gay marriage is just a bonus, but ultimately he barely breaks 40%. His sadness is softened by whispers that John Lewis won’t be running for reelection in 2016.
But what if he did?
Depends a bit on how he did it. If he resigned or declined to run for reelection in 2013 in order to focus on the 2014 Senate race, a mad scramble would ensue. Mary Norwood proved in 2009 that the city of Atlanta electorate has diversified to the point that it is anyone’s race. Had Norwood been a little more grounded in that race, she could have pulled out a win. Her post-2009 decisions probably have eliminated her from the conversation but her run changed the way the Mayor’s race is viewed and widens the field of prospective candidates.
Caesar Mitchell: Would he? Definitely. Caesar is City Council President, the second highest position in City of Atlanta Government,, has citywide recognition, and has done an excellent job of generating positive associations with his positioning on issues. He always appears rational and his somewhat populist leanings serve him well. He would be the early favorite, unless…
Clark Howard: Yes, seriously. He flirted with a run in 2009 before deciding against it. His policy perspective on his show would lead a listener to believe that a Congressional position would be more to his liking, but it is Mayor he has mentioned specifically when asked about political ambitions. He could raise a fair bit of money, however, would he? Being able to call people for money is what separates paper candidates from real ones and if you’ve never done it before it could be a challenge. Many media types who could not self-fund were sacrificed on the finance altar early on and Clark may be another one. He would be the early favorite based on positive name ID.
Lisa Borders: The on again, off again, Mayoral candidate from 2009 could be back in the game for this rodeo. However, her funding base didn’t return to the race when she did in 2009 and likely won’t come back now.
Kwanza Hall: If you are a City Council candidate who voted for the pay increase of nearly 50% earlier this year, you can forget running for Mayor and might face a tough time keeping your seat. Not in that camp is Kwanza Hall. Kwanza’s intown coalition is waiting for an opportunity to fund him, he is acceptable to Buckhead voters and he has a civil rights pedigree. He would be second choice if he decides to hop in the race, but if Caesar declares for Mayor, City Council President may be too tempting.