None of the original three candidates for the position won 50 percent of the vote during the Nov. 3 general election. Farokhi and Watson were separated by three percentage points in that contest and will participate head-to-head in a Dec. 1 runoff election.
"I think our shared Duke Law background is testament to the Law School’s strong presence in Atlanta and the varied paths its alumni take," Farokhi says. "The fact that I'm running against a Duke Law alum makes me proud because I think we both represent Duke well."
"One of the first things we learned about Amir was that he was a Duke graduate," Watson says. "That meant we knew he was well trained."
An Atlanta native, Farokhi earned a bachelor's degree in political science at Duke, where he served as a student government representative. He returned to Duke for his law degree after teaching in Taiwan at the Taipei American School. Farokhi practiced at McKenna Long & Aldridge in Atlanta until July and was a member of the firm's team that received the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta’s "Volunteer of the Year" award.
Watson, a corporate finance lawyer, attended Duke Law as part of a mid-career transition following four years as an accountant at Deloitte & Touche. He was elected to the first of two four-year terms on the Atlanta Board of Education in 1993; his colleagues chose him as president of the board for five of the eight years he served.
He says the candidates' shared connection Duke Law adds a friendly element to the competition; however, it also forces them to compete for common sources of fundraising and base support. "We obviously have some overlapping networks," Watson notes.
The candidates' political philosophies are similar, so much so that Thomas Wheatley of Creative Loafing, an alternative newsweekly in Atlanta, has noted, "On nearly every point, Farokhi and Watson match up."
When it comes to sports, however, their differences emerge.
"To the extent that Aaron and I have spoken about our shared Duke connection, it usually revolves around my insistence that Duke football is on the rise," Farokhi jokes. "As a Notre Dame fan, Aaron just laughs. Duke, however, can actually beat Navy."
*Update: Aaron Watson defeated Amir Farokhi in the Dec. 1 runoff election. Read more here.