In cities throughout the United States, from New York to Seattle, the fear of increasing crime is having a significant impact on municipal politics and policy. When it comes to Atlanta, it has the power of resurrection, injecting a life-giving shock into the once-moribund public career of one of the region’s most divisive public personalities.
Kasim Reed, the former Atlanta mayor who faded from public view in 2018 as a result of a continuous drip of controversy in his administration, has resurfaced with an unexpected campaign for a third term and is now the front-runner in a large field of lesser-known candidates for the position.
It is the disturbing rise in violent crime in Atlanta that Mr. Reed devotes the most of his second act to, as well as his assurance that he alone is capable of reversing the trend.
I am the only candidate with the expertise and track record to handle our city’s rise in violent crime, “said the candidate in a recent Twitter post, which also served to introduce a new campaign commercial in which he refers to public safety as “Job No. 1.”
Mr. Reed is pledging to enhance law enforcement in a manner that takes into consideration grass-roots calls for a cultural shift in police, in the vein of moderate Democrats such as Eric Adams, the winner of this summer’s Democratic mayoral race in New York City. He has pledged to increase the number of police officers in Atlanta by 750. But, he said in a recent television advertisement, “we’re going to teach them in a post-George Floyd manner.”
In the nonpartisan race, the majority of Mr. Reed’s major opponents are identified as Democrats, and the majority of them are also promoting some version of this message, which is a marked contrast to the defund-the-police rhetoric that emerged from progressive activists during the 2020 street protests.
Mr. Reed’s destiny at the polls in November may also provide an indication of how much people are prepared to tolerate from politicians as long as they believe they will be able to maintain some semblance of peace and order. One of the most memorable aspects of his tenure as president was his sharp-elbowed demeanor, which some compared to bullying, as well as a series of scandals that included bribes, theft of public money and firearms violations, among other things.
Felicia Moore, the president of the City Council and one of Mr. Reed’s main opponents for mayor, wants voters to give serious consideration to a series of corruption charges involving members of his administration, according to Moore. According to her, “the leadership should accept responsibility for the acts of their administration.” “He was the driving force behind that organization.”
The political implications of this decision go far beyond the mayor’s desk. Georgia Republicans have started advertising with grim warnings about the violence in liberal Atlanta — despite the fact that violent crime has increased in cities controlled by both Democrats and Republicans in the state of Georgia. Governor Brian Kemp has committed millions of dollars to the creation of a new “crime suppression unit” in the city. Furthermore, the affluent Buckhead area is considering seceding from Atlanta, mostly owing to worries about crime, a move that may be catastrophic for the city’s revenue base.
Mr. Reed said this spring, just a few days before Ms. Bottoms announced her decision not to seek for re-election, that crime had reached “unacceptable levels” and was “fracturing” the city. A number of people believed that Mr. Reed was planning a return and that he was taking a swipe at Ms. Bottoms, who had been his protégée at one point.