May The Best Woman Win!
For the first time in Atlanta’s 170 year history residents are trying to figure out who is the best woman to lead the city as mayor. After a grueling campaign season, which featured over a dozen candidates, Atlanta is on the brink of electing her second woman mayor in history. Veteran city councilmembers Keisha Lance Bottom and Mary Norwood gathered the lion’s share of votes in the non-partisan General Election held in early November.
This race presents several interesting dichotomies. The obvious one is that in addition to being a woman, Mary Norwood is white. If elected Norwood would be the first white woman elected mayor of Atlanta and the first white mayor of any sex since 1973 when Maynard Jackson defeated Sam Massell to become the first Black person elected mayor of a major Southern city.
When Jackson ran for mayor in ’73, his victory was seen as a defeat of the white power structure that had ruled the city since 1847. The Creative Loafing newspaper said the Jackson-Massell race was “an election characterized by alarmist and often virulently racist appeals to the white citizenry to turn back the black tide.”
Ironically, on the brink of this historic election, there has not surfaced to date a strong push from members of the Black community to turn back the “white tide” so to speak. Quite the contrary, Black community leaders are in a rush to hand the reigns of power back to Sam Massell’s Buckhead Coalition via a Norwood Administration.
Lance Bottom, a Black woman has failed to receive the endorsement from the city’s first woman mayor, Shirley Franklin – Black like Lance Bottom – who on the first day of early voting gave her support to Norwood. Franklin’s endorsement follows that of City Council President, Ceasar Mitchell – Black like Franklin and Lance Bottom. Mitchell finished fifth in the General Election balloting. In addition to citing Norwood’s ability to work with all segments of the community, both have engaged in running verbal battles with current Mayor Kasim Reed, a strong supporter of Lance Bottom.
Franklin cut her teeth with the Maynard Jackson political machine. She knows as well as anyone how to amass the political power necessary to leverage economic growth in the Black business community.
Eight years ago, Creative Loafing opined that Franklin’s departure from the mayor’s office would be the end of the Black political machine birth by Jackson and that Atlanta would go the way of other major cities, like New York, Cleveland and Newark, who had experimented briefly with Black mayors and concluded that government works best when a white political boss is in charge.
Perhaps, their dire prediction was eight years too soon. Should Franklin succeed in pushing Norwood over the top, it will usher in a new day in the political affairs of the city of Atlanta. A day the city has not seen since Jackson, the Black political kingpin in the South, lived and preached Black political and economic power.
For better or for worse, the die is cast. It will be Lance Bottom or it will be Norwood; the Jackson Black Power base or the Buckhead Coalition. May the best woman win!
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at email@example.com
I have stayed out of the fray Michael. Honestly, this campaign is less about the Black Coalition versus the Buckhead Coalition and more about how much more of the city will be sold off to the highest bidder. Reed’s administration has caused a lot of people to pause. While Atlanta experiences enormous growth, a lof of Black citizens have been shut out of the process by its current Black mayor. As much as I admired and was helped by Lance-Bottoms former Chief of Staff Carlos Collins, I know much less about her than I do Norwood. Norwood, interestingly, has always been accessible and visible year-round, year-in and year-out. And as much as I am not a fan of current Mayor Kasim Reed, there was some truth to his barb that Ceasar Mitchell was absent a great deal from City Council meetings where votes took place. When I won my settlement for damages due to a collapsed city pipe connected to my mainline, not a single one of these Black mayoral candidates were present to vote in my favor. Norwood was present. I have not yet made up my mind because I am a Black nationalist, but I am also a fourth generation native of Atlanta. There is one thing native Atlantans of all races share: We all want what’s best for this city. This one will be the most difficult mayoral decision I have made in my lifetime so far. Good, balanced piece of writing here.
I have received good constituent service from both candidates. I early voted on Monday, my vote is in the book.