In Atlanta, the outsider Andre Dickens accedes to the town hall
ATLANTA (AP) – Andre Dickens, who won the Atlanta mayoral race on Tuesday, was told he was aiming too high once before.
In 2013, he was a director of Georgia Tech when he embarked on a race for a city-wide seat on Atlanta City Council.
Dickens was targeting a board member who was struck off after depositing funds intended for a client into his own bank account. Dickens had an outgoing manner, a dynamic speaking style, and one other major advantage – his campaign was led by his friend Cabral Franklin, the now deceased son of former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin.
Still, the odds were long for a neophyte, but in his victory speech on Tuesday Dickens recounted his thinking when critics said he should aim lower for his first job.
“I told them, you know, I was aiming for a city-wide seat, because I had city-wide ambitions and connections, and I want to make sure that dream comes true. “said Dickens.
Dickens won that council race and then proved the skeptics again wrong on November 2 when he came back from the peloton to finish second and rob former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed of a spot in the second round of Tuesday. Then he passed City Council President Felicia Moore, who had been the frontrunner on Nov. 2, taking a nearly 2-1 victory that stunned longtime observers of Atlanta politics.
âI was sort of thinking at the start of the campaign, that maybe the message should go privately that ‘you know, we love you, but maybe it’s not your turn yet,’â Harvey said. Newman, professor emeritus of urban policy at Georgia State University. âHe surprised me with his overall performance by just stepping up and beating Kasim hard. It was remarkable. He did so with votes from the south side of Atlanta, which was once Kasim’s stronghold. And then he built on that coalition.
The son of a single mother, Dickens made the leap to an engineering degree at elite Georgia Tech and went on to earn a master’s degree in public administration from Georgia State University. Dickens is a Baptist deacon at the church he helped found and has a daughter with his ex-wife.
Dickens, 47, has long set his sights on the city’s highest office, on Tuesday recounting an argument between him and his mother Sylvia over the first announcement of his ambition.
âI said it was when I was 16, she said it was when I was 12, that I wanted to be mayor of the city of Atlanta someday,â Dickens said. “And look at us now.”
Dickens currently works for TechBridge, a nonprofit that tries to use technology to help other charitable groups. Dickens also founded a program to train people in tech jobs, trying to expand access to high-paying jobs in Atlanta. He previously ran a family-owned furniture store chain that went bankrupt ten years ago, which Dickens blamed on the effects of the Great Recession.
Although fears of increased crime dominated the race for mayor, Dickens focused more in his victory speech on promoting fairness in Atlanta, where there is a clear chasm between lesser residents. richer and whiter and the poorest and blackest residents. He said he wanted to restore the city as a beacon of opportunity for all residents.
âThe city faces multigenerational poverty. We face the highest income inequality in the country. And yes, we are currently fighting a spike in crime in this city, âsaid Dickens, observing that his opponents were never the other 13 mayoral candidates. “My opponent is homelessness, despair, unemployment, racism, poverty, violence.”
This message resonated with black residents, with Dickens winning some heavily black constituencies with over 80% of the vote. But it also reached out to more liberal white residents, especially in gentrified neighborhoods east of the city center. There Dickens may have been helped by a swarm of approvals.
Nan Orrock, a longtime Democratic state senator in that region who has supported Dickens, said she was impressed with the council member while working on a series of projects to honor the congressman and hero of Civil Rights John Lewis.
âI saw him as an innovator, as someone who brought new ideas, and also as a collaborator,â said Orrock.
Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.
This story corrected errors that Andre Dickens’ mother did not graduate from high school and how long he has been attending church.
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