In the primary election that preceded the general election, Jackson finished first with 46.4 percent of the vote. Massell finished second with 19.9 percent, followed closely by former United States Representative Charles Weltner with 19.1 percent. Former State of Georgia Department of Industry and Trade Deputy Commissioner Harold A. Dye finished with 8.4 percent and State Senator Leroy Johnson finished with 3.9 percent. Other candidates were former Atlanta Police Officer John Chambers, Socialist Workers Party activist Debby Bustin, Hare Krishna community leader William Ogle, attorney John Genins, Betty Morrison, Ernest Moschella and write-in candidate Howard Tucker. Jackson then defeated incumbent Mayor Sam Massell in a runoff election.
In the same election, Atlanta voters elected Alderman Wyche Fowler as President of the Atlanta City Council. Fowler defeated Reverend Hosea Williams in a runoff election. In the primary election, Fowler and Williams finished first and second, respectively, followed by former Alderman Wade Mitchell and Rector Robert B. Hunter.
The 1973 election saw a rise in the influence of African-American politicians in Atlanta. Five new black City Council members were added to create a 9-9 split, while two black women were elected to the Atlanta Board of Education for a 5-4 black majority.