Spikes '72 faces tough competition in Atlanta mayoral race

by Emily Goodell | 7/20/09 10:00pm

Working for an international commercial bank and as a corporate attorney have given Spikes the skills necessary to improve Atlanta's financial situation, he said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

Spikes said he decided to enter the race in February 2008 as a way to "give back," and added that his resolve was strengthened when he learned of the financial trouble that was hurting Atlanta.

"Not only is it the right thing to do from a service standpoint, it's also the right thing for the city," Spikes said. "They need people who are able to address complicated financial and business transactions."

Spikes, a partner at the law firm McKenna, Long and Aldridge, is currently fourth in a field of 12 candidates, according to local newspapers covering the race. The top three candidates are Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, Georgia state Senator Kasim Reed and Atlanta City Councilman Ceasar Mitchell, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Shirley Franklin, Atlanta's current mayor, is completing her second term and cannot run again.

In a February poll of 400 likely voters released by Norwood's campaign, 1 percent of those surveyed favored Spikes, compared to 39 percent, 9 percent and 7 percent for Norwood, Reed and Mitchell, respectively, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.

If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the election, the top two candidates will have a runoff election, Spikes said.

The biggest obstacle Spikes faces is his lack of name recognition, Jim Galloway, a writer and editor for the Atlanta Journal Consitution, said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

"His best attribute is that he's part of a very well-connected law firm," Galloway said. "McKenna, Long and Aldridge is the best politically oriented firm in Atlanta. His detriment is that nobody knows him. It's his first race, and it's harder then you'd think to run for mayor."

Spikes said he understands that he needs to get his name out to voters, and added that he believes that if he successfully accomplishes this, he will be victorious.

"We're [increasing name recognition] through mailers, through debates, newspaper stories, personal calls, fundraising," he said. "The name of the game is raising the money to tell the story."

Spikes has been less successful than other candidates in fundraising, with just over $181,000 raised through the end of March, according to the Atlanta news and commentary web site Fresh Loaf. Norwood had raised $314,400 at the time.

Spikes first came to Hanover when he was in high school, through the "A Better Chance" program, which allowed him to transfer from his school in Georgia to Hanover High School. In Hanover, he lived with a local family and was tutored by two Dartmouth students, he said.

"It changed the trajectory of my life altogether," he said. "I was the son of a sharecropper and the youngest of 13 children. Without [A Better Chance] I don't know what would have happened to me educationally. It was a game changer for me, completely."

Spikes was later accepted to Dartmouth early decision.

At Dartmouth, Spikes majored in English, and played football his freshman year before joining the track team. He studied abroad in France and was a French drill instructor. He wrote his honors thesis on the development of literacy in Africa, he said.

"Some of my best friends ended up being in addition to students the professors I knew when I was there," Spikes said.

He was especially close with former English professor Chauncey Loomis and French professor John Rassias, with whom he is still in touch, Spikes said.

After graduating from Dartmouth, Spikes earned a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University and later attended Harvard Law School.

"My life, my educational experience, have prepared me I believe in a unique way to serve the city," Spikes said. "I'm looking forward to the service and I'm always forever grateful for Dartmouth, for the tremendous investment made in me and all of the opportunities open to me as a result."

Running for mayor has been a rewarding experience, Spikes said.

"Everybody ought to be required to run for office," he said. "It's been a tremendously educational experience. I've learned a lot about my city that I never knew before, and it's been a tremendous growth experience for me as well."