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Atlanta mayor’s race highlights city elections across the South

Voters will also pick mayors in St. Petersburg, Miami and Durham

♦By Rich Shumate,

(CFP) — Voters in four large Southern cities will decide elections for city offices Tuesday, with a highly competitive mayor’s race in Atlanta the marquee race of the night.

In addition to Atlanta, mayoral elections will be held in St. Petersburg and Miami, Florida, and Durham, North Carolina.

In Atlanta, where incumbent Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms did not seek re-election, her predecessor as mayor, Kasim Reed, is trying to make a comeback in a 14-person race. His main competitors are City Council President Felicia Moore and City Councilman Andre Dickens.

If no one wins a majority, the top two candidates will compete in a November 30 runoff.

The race has focused on rising violent crime in the city and Reed’s previous time as mayor, with several former aides convicted or facing corruption charges. Reed himself has not been charged, but critics say the ethical problems in his previous administration should be disqualifying.

Bottoms, who led the city through the COVID-19 pandemic and was mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick for Joe Biden last year, surprised the political world in May when she announced that she would not seek another term as mayor.

In St. Petersburg, where Mayor Rick Kriseman is term limited, former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch faces City Council member Robert Blackmon, who advanced to Tuesday’s vote after coming out on top the first round of voting in August.

While city elections in St. Petersburg are officially non-partisan, Welch is a Democrat and Blackmon is a Republican, and the race has taken on a partisan hue, with endorsements from party leaders on both sides..

Welch led during the first round of voting, with 39% to 28% for Blackmon.

In Miami, Mayor Francis Suarez is a heavy favorite to win re-election against four little known candidates.

In Durham, where Mayor Steve Schewel did not seek re-election, Elaine O’Neal, a former judge and law professor, is expected to become the first black woman elected to lead the city.

She won 86% in the first round of voting in October, prompting the second-place candidate, City Council member Javiera Caballero, to suspend her campaign. However, both will still be on Tuesday’s ballot.

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