Former state Rep. Keisha Sean Waites beat Jacki Labat in the Nov. 30 runoff to win the seat on the Atlanta City Council, a seat she has been vying for two decades.

Waites garnered 36,263 votes, or roughly 53% of the vote, to Labat’s 32,758 votes, for about 47% of the vote, for the Post 3 At Large citywide seat, according to unofficial results. Waites beat Labat, the wife of Fulton Sheriff Patrick Labat, in DeKalb and Fulton Counties.

“This about the voters of Atlanta … and now we’ve got work to do,” she told a group of cheering supporters shortly before 11 p.m. at Area 4 restaurant and lounge, located near Greenbriar Mall in southwest Atlanta.

The Post 3 seat was held by Andre Dickens, who beat Felicia Moore in the Nov. 30 runoff to be Atlanta’s next mayor.

Waites, 49, served as a state representative from 2012-2017 for District 60, which includes Clayton and Fulton counties. She resigned from that seat to run for Fulton County chairperson but lost in a runoff to incumbent Robb Pitts.

This race was not Waites’ first bid for Atlanta City Council. She ran unsuccessfully in 2001, 2005, and 2009.

She was also defeated in campaigns for the state Senate in 2002; Fulton County Commission in 2006; a runoff for state House in 2008; and a runoff for the Fulton commission in 2011.

Waites said in an interview her runoff win was the “culmination of many, many years of hard work” and the relationships she’s built since her first run for City Council 20 years ago.

She touted her General Assembly experience as the city ushers in a new mayor and a slate of new City Council members. Crime is spiking, Buckhead wants to secede from the city, the state continues to threaten to take over Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and an affordable housing crisis threatens to displace legacy residents, especially those living south of downtown.

“The stakes are high right now,” Waites said. “I think that in this climate you really need someone that has some level of legislative experience and policy experience.”

Her existing state-level connections could play a role in repairing a sometimes “adversarial” relationship between the city and state as well, she said.

Gov. Brian Kemp and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who chose not to seek re-election, were entangled in several very public feuds over the years. Last year, Kemp sued Bottoms after she implemented a citywide mask mandate and ordered businesses closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, saying she overstepped her authority.

“I could extend an olive branch if you will,” she said.

Waites said she hopes to bring economic development to southwest Atlanta, an area neglected by investors who tend to spend and build in Midtown and the northern parts of the city. This could include tax incentives, she said.

“I don’t think [southwest Atlanta] has ever been properly marketed,” she said.

With a new mayor and many new City Council members to be sworn in early next year, Waites said Atlanta can leave behind the status quo.

Waites said this means focusing on providing better customer service to residents, addressing the homeless population, and seeking ways to narrow the disparity that exists between the southern and northern parts of Atlanta.

“I’m excited about the new blood,” she said. “I’m excited about the transitioning that is happening because I think for us to truly turn the page, we’ve got to do something different.”

Keisha Waites celebrating at her Nov. 30 runoff watch party at Area 4 restaurant. (Photo by: Dyana Bagby/The Atlanta Voice)