By Maria Saporta
Race has entered the Atlanta’s mayor’s race.
A position paper by the Black Leadership Forum, written by Aaron Turpeau, is urging the black community to rally behind one black candidate to make sure Atlanta doesn’t end up with a white mayor — notably City Councilwoman Mary Norwood who currently is ahead in the polls.
Turpeau then urges black leaders to support City Council President Lisa Borders because “she is the best black candidate in the race who has a chance to win the election because she can attract downtown white support.”
In a telephone interview, Borders said she does not agree with Turpeau’s position.
“I don’t agree with his statement at all, but I agree that he has the right to express his opinion,” Borders said. “He’s not speaking on behalf of Borders for Atlanta or for me.”
Her opponent, State Sen. Kasim Reed called on Borders to “repudiate Turpeau’s divisive comments.” He referred to Turpeau as a “Borders surrogate” and called his statements “racist.”
Reed also released the following statement:
“Not only do I find these comments racially-charged and vitriolic, I completely repudiate them because they are fundamentally wrong and do not belong in today’s society. I call on Ms. Borders to do the right thing and denounce such divisive, racist language immediately.
“These tactics divide the very community that has made Atlanta emerge as a leading city in the South and dishonors the legacies of Mayors Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young, Ivan Allen, Sam Massell, and William Hartsfield. This campaign should be waged on the merits of each candidate, not the color of their skin,” Reed’s statement read.
Borders did acknowledge that Turpeau is a supporter, but added that she can’t control what any volunteer says about her or the city. She also said Turpeau wasn’t authorized to speak on behalf of the campaign.
In his paper, Turpeau laid out what was at stake, that there is a chance that for the first time in 25 years that “African Americans could lose the Mayoral seat in Atlanta, Georgia, especially if there is a run-off.”
The paper goes on to say that “time is of the ssence because in order to defeat a Norwood (white) mayoral candidacy we have to get out now and work in a manner to defeat her without a runoff, and the key is a significant black turnout in the general election.”
Borders said she believes Atlanta needs to have an open, honest and safe conversation about race. “Everyone is affected by public safety; everyone is affected by the lack of water; but we seem to be stuck on this issue,” she said. “We need to have that conversation.”
Asked if she agreed with Turpeau’s comment about the need to make sure Atlanta doesn’t end up with a white mayor, Borders said no.
“I don’t agree that you should have a mayor that’s elected based on his or her skin color,” she said. “That’s not appropriate. We have had white mayors. We have had black mayors. What we need today is the right mayor. We have a city that is broken, and we need to fix it.”
Reed is holding a press briefing on this issue at 12:30 p.m. at his campaign office at 1100 Spring St..
And Borders is holding a press briefing on the same issue at 1:30 p.m. at her campaign headquarters at 135 Walton St. downtown.