Former Atlanta mayors split endorsements

By Maggie Lee

Just ahead of Atlanta runoff election day, three incumbents of the mayor’s office don’t agree on which mayoral candidate is the best one to make sure the city fulfills its promise.

In front of City Hall this morning, Shirley Franklin, who served as mayor for eight years starting in 2002, said she wants Mary Norwood to be the next mayor.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin endorsed mayoral candiate Mary Norwood on the steps of City Hall Monday. Norwood, at left, also got endorsements folks she bested in the first round of voting: former city COO Peter Aman and outgoing City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Credit: Maria Saporta

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin endorsed mayoral candidate Mary Norwood on the steps of City Hall Monday. Norwood (left) also got endorsements from folks she bested in the first round of voting: former city COO Peter Aman (center) and outgoing City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. Credit: Maria Saporta

Franklin didn’t endorse in the first round of voting. But in the runoff, she said she feels her involvement is necessary because the city is at a “crossroads” in leadership.

There’s a lot that’s gone right with the city, she said. Her list spans decades, including peaceful integration of schools, MARTA, the BeltLine, universities, the airport, the Olympics, the film and music industries and other things.

But she said not everybody lives in the Atlanta of prosperity and promise.

“We can’t be a city on a hill or the black Mecca when 85 percent … of our African-American children live in high-poverty communities,” said Franklin.

She also returned several times to the federal investigation into pay-for-pay schemes into the city procurement department.

Franklin said this election is about equity, integrity, transparency and issues that affect people. Not race, not religion and not party.

Franklin said Norwood listens, to communities, to business leaders, to people who have complaints. She said that it’s a time for coalitions, that the opportunities Atlanta has are best achieved in coalition, in partnership and not via infighting.

Also asked by a reporter if it was difficult to decide to endorse a white candidate, Franklin said race wasn’t her first consideration.

“Character, transparency and integrity are the first issue for me,” she said.

She said the election is about the future of the city.

“This is not about what worked 50 years ago, 40 years ago. Or formulas that worked for sharing power 40 or 50 years ago. This is not about that. This is about what does the city need going forward?”

Monday’s announcement makes the second mayoral incumbent nod for Norwood. Earlier this month, she also got the endorsement of the Buckhead Coalition and its leader, former mayor Sam Massell.

Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young endorsed Keisha Lance Bottoms (at left) for mayor last week. Credit: Keisha Lance Bottoms campaign/Facebook

Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young endorsed Keisha Lance Bottoms (at left) for mayor last week. Credit: Keisha Lance Bottoms campaign/Facebook

But the day before Thanksgiving, in front of the newly rebuilt and gleaming Martin Luther King Jr. Natatorium, Ambassador Andrew Young, veteran of the civil rights movement and Atlanta mayor for much of the 80s, announced his support for Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Young started his comments with a list of connections between his family and hers: he called Rev. Lawrence Bottoms, grandfather to candidate Bottoms’ husband, one of his mentors. Young said his wife taught with Bottoms’ mother.

“It’s natural that I want to support them,” said Young, pausing, then continuing, “but I basically want to continue what we’ve been doing here in Atlanta.”

Young said that when he came to Atlanta, he found a “social contract” that made the city different from anywhere else.

It was a city, he said, where the business community decided that for them to grow and deal with the “turmoil and troubles” that were affecting other cities, they needed a coalition with the civil rights community.

Years later, Atlanta is doing pretty good, he said. It’s a special place, he said, where that coalition of the civil rights community — be it black, white, brown, straight, gay, Asian, Hispanic — has got to be included in growth, development and culture.

When it doesn’t happen, business breaks down, he said.

“This is a business decision, it’s not a political decision,” said Young, urging a Bottoms vote.

A reporter asked if it’s important that Atlanta have a black mayor, if that’s part of the social contract.

“The social contract is someone,” said Young, “that understands the realities of being poor, or being black, or being gay. Of being outside the circumstances of opportunity, people who need a special push to make it.”

Early voting begins today in various locations and different times in Fulton and DeKalb. The election is Dec. 5.

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

5 replies
  1. Honest Man says:

    Is Former Mayor Andrew Young saying that the mayor of Atlanta MUST be either gay, poor or black? Enough of this nonsense. I respect him for his contributions to civil rights, but his political use of race is shameful.Report

    Reply
  2. Carrie M Salvary says:

    Is Ambassador Young saying we should vote for business as usual ? Is he saying that we should overlook the corruption coming out of City Hall over the past eight (8) years just to maintain a social contract that most of us were not a party to ? I believe that the citizens of the City of Atlanta should vote for the best qualified person for it’s Mayor. I respect Ambassador Young highly for the wonderful work he and others did for attaining civil and human rights for us( blacks) in America. However, I think he’s off the mark on the issue of how and why we elect the Mayor of the City of Atlanta. Nothing is given, all is earned. In my humble opinion.Report

    Reply
  3. L.Manns says:

    Andrew Young is a very intelligent and astute man. He recognizes that Atlanta’s mayor must be able to deal with the melting pot that this city represents which means, both ends of the spectrum whether it be rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight and so one. His usage of race is necessary because in this day and age, many still ignore the implications of racial bias, discrimination and act as if these things don’t exist. Young’s support of Bottoms was simply an expression that she has the ability to connect all of Atlanta no matter what background people come from or socio economic class they relate to.Report

    Reply
  4. atlman says:

    “Young’s support of Bottoms was simply an expression that she has the ability to connect all of Atlanta no matter what background people come from or socio economic class they relate to.”

    Isn’t it convenient that Democrats claim that they are the only ones capable of doing this, and for this reason we should all elect Democrats and only Democrats? Democrats take it upon themselves to unilaterally identify and define the problem, and anything purported to be a problem by someone other than a Democrat is not a problem. And they very helpfully propose the solution, and anything offered by anyone else is not a solution. Pretty convenient how that works, right?

    I was once fine with Mary Norwood becoming mayor, if for no reason than because it is hypocritical to criticize the lack of nonwhites being elected in the suburbs and statewide when blacks have dominated Atlanta politics for over 40 years. But then Norwood goes and makes totally unverifiable and extremely improbable “voter fraud” claims, sounding just like a segger in the process. Totally ignoring that Reed wasn’t even in city government at the time, meaning that it would have been impossible for him or his campaign to engage in those tactics that she alleged even if he wanted to. Shirley Franklin was the mayor then, and she and Reed had already begun to despise each other over the way that he ripped her tenure during his campaign, so she certainly wasn’t going to resort to illegality – and risk ruining her legacy and going to jail – in order to get him into office. But Norwood was counting on her audience either not knowing this or not caring. So maybe the number of people who decided to vote against Norwood after she resorted to that bit of southern strategy campaigning equaled the margin of victory plus one.

    But there are PLENTY of Republicans, conservatives and independents out there who don’t resort to 50s southern Democrat tactics like that. (Nathan Deal is one of them.) Just as there are tons of Democrats who bash white men, evangelicals, southerners and tons of other people who aren’t covered by their “rainbow coalition.” Case in point: Reed firing a perfectly qualified fire chief because of Reed’s disagreeing with his religious views. Obviously your “all of Atlanta” doesn’t include people like him, does it?Report

    Reply

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