Three candidates have officially joined the race for Fulton County chairman so far with two days left to qualify.

Robb Pitts

The candidates include: Robb Pitts, a former Fulton commissioner and Atlanta City Council member; Gabriel Sterling, who currently serves on Sandy Springs City Council; and Keisha Waites, a former state representative.

Pitts and Sterling have been unofficially running for months. Waites resigned her House District 60 seat – representing parts of southwest Atlanta and the East Point area – on Sept. 18 to join the race.

Gabriel Sterling

The Nov. 7 special election for Fulton chairman was called to replace incumbent John Eaves, who resigned to run for mayor of Atlanta.

Keisha Waites.

Sterling’s City Council status

Sterling’s status as a sitting city councilmember has raised legal questions as to whether he must resign to run for the office, as Eaves and Waites did. The current legal interpretation is that Sterling can remain a city councilmember while running for chairman, but must resign if he wins the office on either Nov. 7 or in a runoff scheduled for December. Sterling said he is still deciding whether to resign anyway.

Sterling said the legal opinion came out of a meeting between Sandy Springs City Attorney Dan Lee and Fulton County Attorney Patrise Perkins-Hooker. Lee confirmed the interpretation in an email, while Perkins-Hooker declined to comment.

Sterling’s District 4 City Council was already up for election on Sandy Springs’ Nov. 7 municipal ballot, and he did not file for re-election. Two candidates, Le’Dor Milteer and Jody Reichel, are now running for that District 4 seat, and the winner will take office in January.

If Sterling resigns, the City Council would be in the unusual position of appointing a very short-term new member to fill the vacant District 4 seat.

Sterling said he is “not sure yet” as to whether he might resign during the chairman campaign even if he is not required to. He suggested a scenario where he would resign strategically on the day of the District 4 election and the City Council then appoints that election’s winner to the vacant seat, effectively giving her a head start on her term. That scenario “means the voters will have chosen [and] the district will have [continuous] representation,” Sterling said.

Reporter Newspapers forum

Reporter Newspapers and the Riverside Homeowners Association will host a candidate forum for the Fulton chairman race on Wednesday, Oct. 4. The forum will begin at 7 p.m. at Kairos Church, 5855 Riverside Drive N.W. in Sandy Springs.

Update: This story has been updated with a new location for the candidate forum.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.