City DopeNews

Conservative Group Announces Candidates It’s Supporting

Credit: Blake Aued

Athens Classic, a group formed to support police and address homeless that has emerged as a new force in local politics, met May 2 intending to announce which mayor and commission candidates they would be supporting in the election on May 24. But when the time came, the leaders of the group decided to stay quiet.

About 40 people attended the relatively short meeting, which lasted less than an hour. Bill Crane, an Atlanta resident who owns a public relations firm and member of the Athens Classic board of directors, and Steve Middlebrooks, board chair, spent most of the meeting impressing upon the audience the importance of the upcoming local elections and the need to get out the vote. They passed around canvassing and phone-banking sign-up sheets, but did not indicate who they would be calling or knocking on doors to support.

As the meeting was winding down, one audience member asked, “Are we taking a position on candidates?” Middlebrooks, knowing that a Flagpole reporter was in the room, responded, “I’ll get with you later.”

The following week, Crane reached out to inform Flagpole that the group is “recommending” votes for Mara Zúñiga for mayor, Asia Thomas in Commission District 3, Dexter Fisher in Commission District 5 and John Culpepper in Commission District 7.

Athens Classic and partner organization Athens Clean & Safe have been raising money for months with the intention of pushing the mayor and commission rightward by electing conservatives to local office. In a fundraising email obtained by Flagpole, Middlebrooks claimed in March to have raised $120,000 for Athens Clean and Safe with a goal of $225,000. 

If true, this would be an unprecedented amount of money for a political action committee to spend on Athens elections. For comparison, Mayor Kelly Girtz, who is the biggest local fundraiser in this election cycle, recently reported having raised just over $45,000 through April. 

Based on the local candidates’ fundraising reports, Clean & Safe has not donated any money directly to them (although John Culpepper’s fundraising report has not yet been posted). The organization has not yet even officially registered as a PAC, although by Georgia law this is not required until it has expended $25,000.