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The new city of Mableton elected its first-ever mayor and six new city council members on Tuesday—yet voters seemed tepid about the historic moment.
“It is what it is. Right now, I’m just trying to look on the bright side and hope it’s going to turn out well,” said Linda Martin, who has lived in the Mableton area for 30 years. “We all have to make the best of it.”
Martin was one of 6,113 voters who cast a ballot during Tuesday’s runoff election – out of 47,282 registered voters for Georgia’s newest city. Turnout remained extremely low at 12.9%, with only 70 more voters casting ballots than in the March 21 special election.
In total, fewer than 13% of Mableton voters elected Michael Owens as mayor over Aaron Carman. According to Cobb County’s unofficial results, Owens held a 700-vote margin (55% to 44%) over Carman, who advanced to the runoff after none of the four initial candidates for mayor won more than 50% of the vote.
Even though voters approved incorporating the city of Mableton in a Nov. 8 2022 referendum, there are a lot of hold-outs. Carman had positioned himself as the de-annexation candidate in the race, saying he supported residents’ effort to remove themselves from the city’s boundaries, while Owens supported the cityhood movement. With Carman’s defeat, the de-annexation movement may be all but dead until the 2024 legislative session.
De-annexation didn’t influence Billy Barnes’ vote for mayor. The semi-retired resident of 25 years said he supported Mableton’s cityhood movement but went with Owens mostly on his background. Owens is a military veteran, cybersecurity executive, and former chair of the Cobb Democrats.
“This is all something new, like everything else around here,” said Barnes of the vote. “We’re just turning over a new leaf, and if you want some kind of change, you gotta jump on a wagon and voice your opinion.”
Cory Hawkins, 35, said he was voting only for Democrats and Cheryl Davis–his neighbor–who lost her bid to become a city council member in Mableton’s newly formed District 5 by 54 votes.
Hawkins said he voted in favor of cityhood on Nov. 8 last year—which passed by a narrow 53% to 47% margin—but admitted he didn’t know much about the issue.
“I really wish I had a little bit more literature and knowledge on [cityhood]. I don’t think there was enough information provided about it,” said Hawkins, a project manager for a healthcare company, who moved to Mableton from Stone Mountain after buying a house in 2021. “But I do know that there’s supposed to be an influx of resources if we went with cityhood–that’s what I heard. And hopefully that is what happened.”
One 19-year-old college student, who’s a sophomore at Morehouse College, told Atlanta Civic Circle he didn’t know much about the issue or the candidates. He said he was just voting on Tuesday to do his civic duty, and was voting “the way my mom told me I should.”
After casting a ballot at the South Cobb Regional Library on Tuesday morning, Martin, the longtime resident, said she’s still shocked that Mableton is officially a city. “I was floored when I saw it passed,” she said. “I was like, who voted for that? I don’t know anyone who did.”
Martin voted against cityhood herself. The Georgia Legislature just passed a law awaiting the governor’s signature that would allow citizens to petition to de-annex themselves, but Martin is not sanguine about her chances.
“I don’t think I could get myself de-annexed, because I live right in the heart of Mableton,” she said, adding that she’s pleased with the services that Cobb County has been providing. It’s unclear, she said, what a Mableton city government could do better.
UNOFFICIAL RUNOFF ELECTION RESULTS
Mayor Michael Owens (55%), Aaron Carman (44%)
District 1: Ron Davis (won on March 21)
District 2: Dami Oladapo (52%), Monica Evette Delancy (47%)
District 3: Keisha Jeffcoat (58%), Yashica Marshall (43%)
District 4: Patricia Auch (57%), Cassandra Brown (43%)
District 5: T.J. Ferguson (52%), Cheryl Davis (48%)
District 6: Debora Herndon (won on March 21)