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ATL Business Chronicle

Mayoral hopefuls play to strengths for money

By Maria Saporta and Dave Williams
Contributing Writer and Staff Writer

If you’re an Atlanta resident who contributed to a candidate in this year’s mayoral race, odds are you support Councilwoman Mary Norwood.

If you live in the metro suburbs but take an interest in Atlanta politics, your donation likely went to City Council President Lisa Borders.

Two of the leading candidates to succeed Shirley Franklin as Atlanta’s mayor are fueling their campaigns from different pumps, according to an independent analysis of financial disclosure forms provided to Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Norwood raised more than three-fourths of her campaign cash from inside the city limits during three reporting periods ending June 30. More than 72 percent of Borders’ money during that time came from the counties just outside of Atlanta.

To a lesser extent, former state Sen. Kasim Reed and attorney Jesse Spikes are relying on contributors from a third geographic pool: outside of Georgia.

Spikes and Reed raised 38.6 percent and 36.1 percent of their campaign funds, respectively, from out-of-state donors, dwarfing contributions to Norwood and Borders from outside of Georgia, according to the analysis.

It’s a matter of each candidate taking advantage of his or her strengths, said Michael Owens, an associate professor of political science at Emory University. “Candidates with very distinct bases of fundraising are fully mobilizing those bases,” he said.

The analysis was conducted by Patricia A. Cronin, a certified public accountant hired by Atlanta businessman Inman Allen to break down the financial disclosures into various categories. Atlanta Business Chronicle then calculated the percentages in the various charts.

Allen, the son of former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., said he paid for the analysis because he wanted to make sure Atlantans were given the opportunity to see where the various candidates were getting their financial support.

For the record, Allen is backing attorney Jesse Spikes’ candidacy for mayor, but he said this project was done with his “civic” hat rather than his “political” hat.

Allen said: “Let the numbers fall where they may.”

The analysis found Norwood the favorite among smaller donors, those giving less than $500. Reed led among larger contributors, although by a lesser margin.

Reed also dominated corporate donations to the mayor’s race, while Norwood and Borders set the pace for percentage of contributions from individuals, the analysis showed.

Norwood said the heavy tilt of her fundraising efforts toward both smaller donations and contributors from inside the city was no coincidence.

“I truly am the grass-roots candidate,” she said. “The vast majority of the people who have contributed to my campaign are people I know personally.”

“[Norwood] in some ways has learned lessons from the Obama campaign,” Owens said. “One can raise a whole lot of money by making a lot of requests for small donations.”

Owens, who contributed to the Borders campaign, said Norwood also has built a strong citywide network of supporters from two terms on the city council in an at-large post. Before that, she spent years as a civic activist.

“She’s everywhere in the city of Atlanta,” he said. “You can find her popping up at places you wouldn’t expect.”

Geographic trends

That citywide presence paid off for Norwood, according to the analysis, which examined the amount of giving north and south of Interstate 20, a traditional dividing line within the city limits.

In the past several decades, the area south of I-20 has had a large majority African-American population, while north of I-20 tends to have more white residents.

What becomes immediately obvious is the scarcity of donors and dollars on the south side of Atlanta. Of all the dollars raised in all of the campaigns, less than 1 percent ($20,496) came from the area south of I-20 inside the city.

Norwood, a Buckhead resident and the one major white candidate in the race, received more than half of those contributions ($10,896). Ironically, the other three major candidates live south of I-20.

“We have been so pleased to have grass-roots support in every single corner of the city,” Norwood said. “I’ve been working for communities in the city for 20 years, and those connections are strong and those connections are deep.”

Owens said Borders’ strong showing in the metro suburbs stems from her support among real estate developers, many of whom live in those counties. Borders is a former senior vice president with Cousins Properties Inc.

The former health-care executive also heads the Henry W. Grady Health System Foundation.

“Her networks around the area are quite extensive through the role she played with Cousins Properties and now with Grady, which operates as a metro-wide foundation,” Owens said.

Borders said metro-wide support would be a real asset if she were to be elected.

“I have the greatest ability to build coalitions in the region,” she said. “They understand that as goes Atlanta, so goes the region and so goes the state.

“This speaks to my ability to not just reach over the political aisle but also the geographical aisle, something that’s hampered the city in the past. What this says to me is that I’ve got the greatest ability to bridge that divide.”

Norwood criticized Reed for accepting so much money from outside of Georgia, about $280,000 of the more than $770,000 that he had raised through June 30, according to the analysis.

“I think that speaks volumes,” Norwood said. “They care about Atlanta because?”

Both Reed and Spikes said their out-of-state contributions are a consequence of their having spent a lot of time living outside of Georgia.

Reed earned undergraduate and law degrees from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Spikes obtained a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University and a law degree from Harvard University. He also lived in Detroit while working as a law clerk for a federal appellate judge.

Spikes said most of his out-of-state money came from friends he met along the way rather than through connections he has built as a partner with international law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP.

“They were long-standing friends of mine who thought I would make a good mayor,” he said.

Reed said his out-of-state support came from people he met at Howard as well as relationships he forged during 11 years in the General Assembly.

“When you make a commitment as big as running for mayor, you call upon people who know you best,” he said. “I know other elected officials in every major city in the U.S.”

Reed, who ran both of Franklin’s campaigns, said national fundraising in high-profile state and local elections has become commonplace in American political races, including Atlanta’s mayoral contest.

“Nobody has been elected mayor in Atlanta without significant support from outside of Atlanta, from Maynard Jackson through Shirley Franklin,” he said.

Reed took a swipe at Norwood for raising the issue.

“I believe it’s another red herring to bring up if you’re someone who can’t raise money nationally,” he said.

From the big-picture perspective, the analysis showed that through June 30, Norwood had raised the most money among the four candidates, followed by Reed, Borders and Spikes.

Norwood also had the greatest number of donors. In fact, she had more donors than the other three combined.

But Norwood’s campaign listed all donors contributing less than $100, which is not required by disclosure laws. As a result, 799 of her 2,596 donors contributed less than $100.

The $500 donation limit gives a more accurate portrayal of the donor trends for each candidate.

In that category, 72.1 percent of Norwood’s donors gave less than $500, while 53.1 percent of Spikes’ donors fell into that category. Borders was next, with 39.8 percent of her contributors giving less than $500, followed by Reed with 38.1 percent.

Similar trends can be traced when looking at which candidates had the most donors giving more than $2,000.

Reed had the highest percentage of $2,000-plus donors — 10.4 percent. Borders came in second at 8.6 percent, followed by Spikes with 6.1 percent, and Norwood with 3.5 percent of her contributors giving $2,000 or more.

Broken down by corporations, individuals and organizations, Norwood and Borders led the field with the highest percentage of their dollars coming from individuals (Norwood with 93.3 percent and Borders with 82.2 percent).

Borders said giving by individuals is what translates into votes.

“At the end of the day, I have the deepest traction, and that’s what wins elections,” said Borders, who has been considered the leading candidate of the business community.

In terms of percentage of giving by corporations, Reed led the field with 26.5 percent, while Norwood received 6.2 percent of her donations from corporations.

“I’m not the candidate of special interests,” Norwood said.

But Reed wasn’t bereft of support from individual contributors. In fact, the analysis showed that he raised nearly $550,000 in donations from individuals, second only to Norwood.

Borders dropped out of the race for seven months late last year and early this year, affecting her fundraising totals.

Spikes attributed his last-place position in fundraising to his status as a political newcomer.

“Clearly, there’s an advantage to having run for office before,” he said. “You have a base of contributors and a base of fundraisers. … You can only develop that by being in the political arena.”

About this story:

This analysis was based on the financial disclosure forms submitted by the four major candidates running for Atlanta’s mayor for the three reporting periods ending June 30, 2009. Patricia A. Cronin, a certified public accountant, was hired by Atlanta businessman Inman Allen to break down the financial disclosures in the various categories. Atlanta Business Chronicle then calculated the percentages in the various charts. Allen, the son of former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., paid for the analysis. For the record, Allen is backing Jesse Spikes.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. Amber October 5, 2009 7:08 am

    We all know where Borders gets her money from…her Republican puppet masters:


  2. Metro Mike October 5, 2009 7:19 am

    Allen is backing Jesse Spikes lol. He just lost all credibility. He must have changed his mind since the June 30th disclosure…that would explain Spikes going from 2% to 1% in the polls. From his dull knowledge regarding complex issues to his cheap campaign ad with a jingle at the end, it’s clear that Mr. Spikes is out of his league.Report

  3. Joey October 5, 2009 7:27 am

    Why is Spikes even in this discussion? The majority of his campaign funds came out of his own pocket. Strangely, Allen forgot to mention that. I think it says a lot that Norwood has gathered so many smalls donations; however, I just don’t think she has the wherewithal or the presence to be Mayor of an international city. Excuses aside, if she couldn’t get anything done in the City Counsel, how can we expect her to be more effective on a larger stage. True leaders find a way to get it done and she hasn’t.

    I wonder what this next disclosure will look like. I think whoever has raised the most cash between Reed and Borders will be in the runoff with Norwood.Report


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