Runoff elections across metro Atlanta have caused a real shakeup. While all eyes were on the mayor’s race, the city council is gaining some new members who will bring a different perspective.
Long-term incumbent Joyce Sheperd lost her re-election bid to a younger, more progressive candidate Antonio Lewis. According to local news, Sheperd served the district for 17 years.
Lewis forced Sheperd into a runoff election and successfully overcame nearly two decades of support and relationships. Sheperd’s leadership on an unpopular project, dubbed “Cop City” by local organizers, was a central talking point of her re-election.
Members of the city council approved the project in September, disregarding hours of public comment overwhelmingly in opposition to the proposal. As reported by Mainline, the project received opposition from a broad coalition, including environmental activists, intown neighborhood groups, and democratic socialists.
Some of that organizing may have indirectly helped Lewis. It’s also possible that in Lewis, Atlanta’s southside is signaling that it’s ready for a change. Results show Lewis beat Sheperd by more than 800 votes.
Lewis told Atlanta’s 11 Alive that the killing of Rayshard Brooks last June inspired him to run. Lewis was friends with Brooks and has said last summer’s protests were a pivotal moment for him.
He will be joined by military veteran Jason Dozier and organizer Liliana Bakhtiari, who also picked up city council seats Tuesday night. In a Q&A with NewsOne, Dozier spoke of the failures built into broken systems that need people’s attention.
“On the one hand, people know when systems are broken because these failures become part of our lived experiences,” Dozier said. “Sometimes they’re just nuisances we learn to live with–late buses missed trash pickup, delayed permits. But often, these failures can have disastrous consequences, or even can be deadly–lost income, illegal evictions, encounters with the police.”
Dozier said because of the compounded failures, people lose hope and disconnect from the process. “It’s difficult to restore that trust,” Dozier continued. “And so, for many people, they choose not to participate in local elections at all.”
It seems that Dozier and his new colleagues may have given some people a little hope in the process. He defeated incumbent Cleta Winslow, ending her 27-year tenure on the council.
Both Sheperd and Winslow dodged their opponents in forums leading up to the runoff election.
Nearby in the City of South Fulton, democratic socialist khalid kamau unseated incumbent Mayor Bill Edwards. A progressive organizer and campaign operative, kamau served as campaign manager to two state legislative candidates in 2018, defeating an incumbent in one and flipping another district.
All three city council candidates and kamau were endorsed by the Georgia Working Families Party. Committed to building a “multiracial movement of working people to transform America,” the Georgia team invested in several local races that would ordinarily go overlooked.