Winning Begins With the Candidate

By Cabral Franklin


I haven’t blogged in a while because I have been slogging through a tough election cycle. I had the pleasure to work for some great candidates and be part of the circus we call Atlanta politics. The Andre Dickens vs. Lamar Willis race was particularly important to me. Andre and I have been friends for almost 25 years. Helping a childhood friend get elected to political office is not something I normally do. But as a friend, it was important to me to be a part of his campaign.

Andre’s campaign was successful for three main reasons:

1. He is a great candidate – Andre has literally talked to me about public service since we met in the 10th grade at Benjamin E. Mays High School. His roots in southwest Atlanta, business acumen, and academic pedigree made him an ideal candidate. His community organizing experience,personable nature and his ability to communicate effectively one-on-one made supporters out of most people he met.

2. A strong campaign strategy – Running against a 12-year incumbent who was backed by a popular mayor meant our campaign strategy had to be nearly flawless to give him his best chance to win. From the start, we decided that we needed to make the race a referendum on Willis. Convincing a first-time candidate to initiate this type of strategy and stick to it throughout the campaign was a tireless challenge.

3. Staying on message – Perhaps the best trait of the campaign was staying on our message. We decided to focus on Willis’ pending disbarment and fake charity very early. We didn’t waver from this message after Willis attacked Andre and his supporters (including my family) even though many people thought we should respond. Keeping the focus on Willis proved successful.

Managing the external issues of this campaign was different than anything professionally I had done. Fundraising was difficult due to the business community passing judgment on the probability of Andre’s success. The side stories in this campaign were numerous and often distracting.

Despite the rhetoric, this race wasn’t about a proxy or one person’s wishes. Rather it was about the Atlanta Way – collective, diverse interests doing what was best for the city of Atlanta. Andre ended up winning between 40% – 60% of the vote in each city council district. This type of citywide appeal makes him someone to watch in the future.



  1. derek alphran says:

    Well done!! Excellent campaign I am interested in the demographic breakdowns at some point and so called crossover votes among the black/white electorate . Maybe the type of vote that got Andy Young elected to Congress the first time. As you indicated it was the candidate first and foremost.
    Second, the Franklin brain trust!

  2. Derek
    Thanks for the compliment. A strong candidate, smart campaign and enough resources to reach voters are fundamental to winning. I learned politics from Maynard, David and a host of others over the years. I recall them talking about the lessons they learned from the “elders”. Thank goodness every generation brings innovation and energy to Atlanta elections.

  3. Burroughston Broch says:

    Cabral, you shouldn’t be patting yourself on the back.
    Dickens only took 53% of the votes against Willis.
    Absent Willis’ disbarment and unwanted public exposure, I do not believe Dickens would have won.

    • bloggingwhileblue says:

      That’s funny. On my school playground a win was always a win.

      • Burroughston Broch says:

        Victories on school playgrounds are all about immediate gains, because children do not consider long term consequences. The win you relish today may be a pyrrhic victory with a long term cost greater than your immediate pleasure.
        I would congratulate you if your candidate had won by 20+ points, but not a 6 point squeaker against a flawed opponent.

  4. @ BB Well, I won 200 1 the mayor’s race with barely 50% or the vote and today I was reminded of the close race (approximately 117, 000 of 68 million votes) between President Kennedy and Vice President Nixon. The most important history is made after the election. Of course, it begins with winning the election. However the 2013 Atlanta municipal elections are analyzed by tactics and strategy or vote count, the history to be made will be exciting to watch. I continue to be proud of Dickens, Franklin and their team for a decisive win. Congratulations!

    • Burroughston Broch says:

      You won the 2001 Mayor’s race over a number of candidates, the most notable being Robb Pitts who polled 33%. You were not running against a flawed candidate who had been publicly exposed.
      Neither Kennedy or Nixon was a flawed candidate who had been publicly exposed.
      Lamar Willis was disbarred and publicly lambasted by all of the local media before the election, yet he still managed to poll 47%. I was gobsmacked he polled as well as he did, and believe that indicates weakness in Andre Dickens’ campaign.
      Let’s see whether Dickens will be an improvement over Willis – I hope so!

  5. Ok, let’s see., Your cynicism isn’t alarming. It is just typical of lack of public confidence elected officials these days. Gone are the times when public service was held in high regard. If I am right, Andre will have a long, productive career in public service. Fact is Deal was a flawed candidate and won over Barnes, a superior candidate, who ran a superb campaign. And Barnes was a superior candidate to Perdue and lost to him too.
    Your analysis of Andre, his campaign and my mayoral campaign is flawed but that isn’t the point. Willis was defeated and now Dickens can show us what he can do. Thank goodness we had a choice.

    Note: I spelled my name right this time. LOL

  6. Burroughston Broch says:

    And I thought you had adopted a new nom de plume!

    We must agree to disgree.
    Roy Barnes was a flawed candidate because of his poor performance as Governor, exacerbated by his change of the state flag and unnecessary confrontation with the public school teachers.
    He took 52.5% of the 1998 gubernatorial vote, 46.5% of the 2002 vote, and 43% of the 2010 vote. Discern a trend?