Candidate profile: John Eaves

He's late to the race and underfunded, but the Fulton chairman isn't ditching his bid for mayor

John EavesCOUNTY BOSS: Mayoral candidate, and Fulton Chairman, John EavesCourtesy FULTON COUNTYEvery time Fulton Chairman John Eaves ran for the county's chief seat, he raked in some 70,000 votes from Atlantans. He's now held that post for three consecutive terms, and he thinks many of those supporters will back his mayoral bid, too. But Eaves stepped into Atlanta's crowded contest pretty late, and his team hasn't claimed much campaign cash, especially relative to the deep pockets of Atlanta Council President Ceasar Mitchell or the city's ex-COO Peter Aman: They've both reeled in more than $1.6 million.

"Those numbers are not a good indication of what's going to happen on election day," Eaves tells Creative Loafing.

So he is largely running, resumé in-hand, touting his accomplishments as county boss. Essentially, his efforts at the helm of the Fulton County Commission and his campaign for mayor are one in the same and his work as chairman has surely taken away from his ability to bang on doors on the campaign trail. But, he says, "We're ramping up our field operations, so neighbors can expect a knock at their door." Plus, he's been phoning prospective voters for a few hours each day, even though, he says, his political track record will carry him further than a stack of checks from donors ever could. "Given my name recognition, I just don't believe as much money is needed to finance my campaign."

Some political strategists would disagree with that notion, and it might prove difficult for Eaves to yank support from the likes of Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, a candidate for mayor whose district he lives in, or Councilman Kwanza Hall, another nearby contender. Nevertheless, Eaves has garnered considerable media attention and lulled electorate interest with his recent exploits.

Many Fulton property owners breathed a sigh of relief when Eaves' property tax "freeze" proposal was unanimously approved by the County Commission. His plan stunted property tax assessments at last year's levels, after residents clamored over concerns of significant hikes to their home appraisals.

Yet, some people namely Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen fear that docking those property assessments could mean less tax cash will go to the school system. Not so, says Eaves, adding that Carstarphen's concerns are "premature." "Our preliminary findings indicate that there is tax digest growth," he says. "We just don't know exactly how much that is." He says he'll be sending concrete numbers to APS "hopefully" by next Friday.

Eaves has also billed himself as an anti-Donald Trump candidate, after he, a Democrat, slammed the president's blind ambition to abolish the Affordable Care Act. Last week, the chairman criticized Congressional Republicans' goal to repeal and - maybe? - replace the health care program, saying such a plan could cripple Georgia's largest hospital, Grady Memorial.

His defense of the medical facility might have yielded him some campaign clout, were it not for the GOP's failure to effect its "skinny repeal." Right now, it seems, the hospital is in good health (save for some crowding issues), and it's slated to receive a pretty hefty expansion in years to come. Still, when Grady grows, Eaves says, he'll be the only candidate who can really take credit for the improvements. And many people, he says, don't understand just how vital the Downtown hospital is to not just locals but for visitors, too. "Grady is part of the prerequisites for major events to be held here," he says, noting Atlanta would be unable to host the Olympics or the Super Bowl without a robust medical center within reach.

He also says he'd be better positioned as Atlanta mayor than as a county official to resist the Trump administration's antics. He wants to hold the president and his toadies to account on all things health care, LGBT rights and immigration, among other policies.

But, before he can take on the big dogs in D.C., Eaves says, he'd need to keep the City Hall in line. "I think the cloud over City Hall is there, and it's going to be more apparent as we get closer to the election," he says of the bribery scandal that's currently under federal investigation. "I am far-removed from all the proceedings and shenanigans of City Hall. I'm coming with a fresh perspective. My county government, even though it's not perfect, certainly has been free of any corruption."

Only time will tell if Eaves' county constituents will show out to support his stab at the mayor's seat, but he says nothing will stop him from seeing his campaign through to the end. He'll be stepping down from his Commission gig before August 25, when the candidates have to stake their seriousness in the race.

As the race for Atlanta's next mayor heats up, Creative Loafing will be sitting down with every major contender in an effort to replicate that awkward knock on the door from candidates and canvassers. Check back for weekly updates on the impending election.

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