Monday, October 26, 2009

Walter Jones of the Georgia Times Union: Atlanta mayor's race has statewide implications

Changes could mean blacks will no longer dominate city ballots.
ATLANTA - Next month's election could spell the end to a generation of black mayors in the state's capital city and usher improved relations between the city and the state, with the result that Georgia taxpayers provide more benefits to Atlanta.

Though no votes will be counted from Augusta, Savannah, Athens or Brunswick, the winner will become a leader for the state in ways beyond those of governors and other officials who are elected statewide.

Do a simple Google search of the current mayor, Shirley Franklin, and Gov. Sonny Perdue, both nearing the end of their second terms. Perdue brings up 144,000 items and 18,700 images while Franklin's dwarfs his with 222,000 mentions on the Web and 58,400 images.
Atlanta is the capital and gives its name to the country's eighth-largest metropolitan area, which is home to two-thirds of Georgia's population and 61 percent of the state tax collections. And most economists consider the area to be the economic engine of not only the state but also the region.

Six candidates are vying to replace Franklin, who cannot have a third consecutive term. Polls show Atlanta Councilwoman Mary Norwood out front and close to winning without a runoff. If she fails to snag a majority, she'll enter a runoff after Thanksgiving with either Council President Lisa Borders or Sen. Kasim Reed.

Political commentator Jeff Dickerson said Atlanta's changing demographics led most observers to recognize that blacks soon will no longer dominate the city's elections. Frustrations about rising taxes and reduced services under the current administration has prompted many blacks to lean toward Norwood, he said at a discussion hosted by the large Atlanta law firm McKenna, Long & Aldridge.

Dickerson quotes an unnamed, black councilman as recounting comments from his own, African-American constituents. "They say, 'it's time to give the white folks a chance because you have blown it.'"

Besides, there is less of a sense of cohesion, he said. "Having had a black president, having an African-American mayor just isn't the same priority," he said.

Norwood not only leads in the polls but also in fund raising. Many of those contributions are small, coming from individuals rather than the fat cats.

Borders is connected to real estate developers in the area, and Reed draws on ties he made to the black leadership when he was Franklin's campaign manager. But Norwood proclaims her independence from both groups in her ads.

One connection Norwood doesn't shirk may be important after the election of the ritzy Buckhead neighborhood, according to commentator Tom Houck. He told the lawyers and their guests that "Buckhead Betty" has voted in more Republican primaries than Democratic ones.

If she wins, her links to the posh, northside neighborhood that includes the governor's mansion could shape how state officials react to her and the city over the next four years. Running against Atlanta has been a successful tactic for politicians across the state for generations, not just during the past 35 years of black mayors. As Republicans took over the state government, they kept it up, including threatening to take over MARTA and the airport.

Years ago when legendary former House Speaker Tom Murphy was at the height of his power, he used to quietly see that Atlanta got state support, such as the funds to construct the World Congress Center to spur the lucrative convention business. That's how the city could benefit again should Norwood's election bring a truce with the GOP that's now in power.
Now Norwood has voted in more republican primaries than Democratic. If she goes on to win, whill she back a republican candidate for governor. That's my question. She may have a much better relationship with the crowd (GOP) at the State Capitol because she is from the northside of Atlanta. I don't know what to amke of the mayoral race because I haven't paid much attention to it, but in the beginning Lisa Borders I thought had the advantage because she was the first to announce & the amount of republican support she had behind her, but when she dropped out for that brief period of time, it left a vacuum & no one filled it. The only way I see Norwood winning is without a runoff. If she goes to a runoff against either Reed or Borders, she will not win in my opinion. She has to get it on Nov. 3 if wants to ebcome the next mayor of Atlanta. If she doesn't, she's a dead duck in the runoff.

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