Kasim Reed names ex-John Lewis staffer to run Atlanta mayoral campaign — so will the congressman follow?

Kasim Reed was just 32 years old when he successfully managed Shirley Franklin’s first campaign for Atlanta mayor in 2001.

Eight years later, a candidate for mayor himself, Reed has settled on another young face to run his campaign.

Tharon Johnson, 31, district director for John Lewis, the venerable Atlanta congressman, has joined the Reed team as its campaign manager, according to my AJC colleague Eric Stirgus.

Johnson’s past political experience includes management of state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond’s 2002 re-election bid. He was also field director U.S. Rep. John Barrow in his 2004 and 2006 campaigns.

Johnson has been involved in past Lewis campaigns, including an unexpectedly competitive primary last year arising from the congressman’s early support of Hillary Clinton for president. Lewis later switched to Barack Obama.

Johnson said he decided to work with Reed because of the candidate’s efforts as a state senator to help the city pay for its sewer improvements and Reed’s proposal earlier this year for a voter referendum this November to direct the proceeds of a tax increase toward pay for more police officers and firefighters.

“Kasim, for me, provided me with a vision for Atlanta that could relate to,” said Johnson, who has resigned from the congressman’s office.

The obvious question: Does this mean an endorsement from Lewis is in the works for Reed? “We are trying to get his support,” Johnson said. “We’d love to have it.”

9 comments Add your comment

Will is an IDIOT

April 29th, 2009
6:06 pm

So Kasim, like Shirley, proved he could beg to Washington for money since the
city can’t seem to manage its own funds. Brilliant!

Will Jones - Atlanta

April 29th, 2009
10:42 pm

When Rome conquered Greece “idiot” was a term of respect among the Greeks. It meant private person, an individual not part of the state.

idi^ôt-ês , ou, ho, ( [idios] )

A. private person, individual, opp. the State, xumpheronta kai polesi kai idiôtais Th.1.124 , cf. 3.10, SIG37.3 (Teos, v B.C.), Pl.Smp.185b, X.Vect.4.18, etc.; opp. genos, SIG1013.6 (Chios, iv B.C.); opp. phatria, ib.987.28 (ibid., iv B.C.).

Rome, in Latin, turned a good and noble thing into a bad word, just as they turned “zealot,” Jews opposed to the Roman occupation and creation of Palastine (the Caesar’s palace district for his local ruler) into a bad word, just as they turned “liberal,” the highest achievement by a person in Scripture, into a “bad” word.

Fascists and papist differ with Our Founders and want to denigrate those who attempt to “refresh” our collective memory as to the transcendant and sublime meaning of The Creed, and how easily can be discerned the effectiveness of Rome’s Fifth Column treason in America.

The Sassy One

April 29th, 2009
11:32 pm

You people are weird, and although I’m not particularly fond of Reed, I don’t think he was begging or lobbying Washington for money to end the public safety furloughs. He’s too close to Shirley (they run in the same crowd) so I’m to concerned things would stay the same. Lisa Borders appears to be the most knowledgeable so we will see. Oh yeah, vote the ENTIRE council out. Re-electing any of them would be a huge mistake. They’re lapdogs for the administration and allow Greg Pridgeon and Shirley to run all over them. Giornelli et al went around the council to let the Braves setup their valet parking at the stadium, but somehow the Council is apologizing to the Braves and the Mayor for it. WTF?

Will Jones - Atlanta

April 30th, 2009
6:33 am

When I was 20 years old, I got my Catholic girlfriend pregnant and she would not have an abortion no matter how much I twisted her arm. I figure the Pope is a criminal. Men should be able to pressure stupid women into having abortions. Rome has nothing to say on the matter.

Will Jones - Atlanta

May 1st, 2009
10:31 am

When Jim comes back he, no doubt, will be kind enough to remove the above lying “name-thief’s” comment. That anti-American, anti-Democratic carpetbaggers can’t respond to the verifiable, historic facts known to America’s Black, White, Jew, and Gentile Whig Founders they resort to lies and other evil.

Max Cleland for Governor
Anybody but Kasim Reed/Franklin-tool for Mayor …Mary Norwood? Glenn Thomas?


May 1st, 2009
2:18 pm

No ! No! No! I do not care who his campaign manager is. This guy stinks inside out. These appointments are just attention getters. This guy is nothing big except was a token appointment to John Lewis’ staff so that Lewis could try to appeal and connect with the young voters. This guy has done nothing. John Lewis name wins elections. Not his campaign manager or anyone associated with his office. This guy is a token to Kasims campaign. He will regret even being associated with this group when it is all said and done. Believe me, he will not be running that campaign. Shirley and Kasim himself will be running the show. That is why it is even more important that guy need not be mayor. Believe me, if he is we will have more of the same garbag, or worse, than we are getting from Shirley. They are one and the same. Do not let them fool you. Be smart voters. Be very smart. The city of Atlanta is in dire straits. And Kasim was on Shirley’s transition team that brought in all the incompetent directors, including the former finance person, who did nothing to fix the ailing financial system utilize by the City of Atlanta. Shirley fooled the voters. Do not let this guy orchestrate the same game he used to fool us with Shirley to get himself in office. We are smarter than that.

Marisa Arnie

June 9th, 2009
5:05 am

I really am ashamed that when considering the Mayor’s race, one thinks of affiliations as key to success as opposed to record. If the City Council needs to go? Then why would you elect one of them for Mayor. I will base my vote on the most qualified and proven skills to bring our city up to par and forward to fill the shoes of a real international city.

Let’s look at the candidates…
Jesse Spikes, nice talk about the needs of the city. But what leverage can you give us as a new leader who has to appeal across state and global lines to ensure we are closer to where we need to be in 4 years.

Mary Norwood-She has been running around Council for 4 years as if she is creating change. What she really does as an at-large Councilmember is piss off her colleagues by going to meetings and adjusting plans that are more often what the actual Councilperson has helped the residents put in place and then claiming it as her own idea. I believe she called for research to determine how many black workers were employed by the city vs the number of black leaders vs the number of black residents. Who knows what she was doing but it doesn’t seem like she is using that information as she galvanizes blacks around her fast talks.

Kasim Reed-well I will say he has proven to love Atlanta. Now who can say if it’s love for Shirley or Atlanta, but I did read his statement saying he was his own man. I assume he made the moves in the State Legislature for the good of the city because he got elected by the people, not as Shirley’s campaign manager. I do like his logical assessment of the city and his ability to reach out beyond Atlanta. and bring home the bacon. In my mind this will go a long way.

Lisa Borders-I am not sure what to think here. After contributing, no call to let me know that she was dropping out. No platform, No money, No Lisa. Now some folks have asked for her return and here she comes like superwoman to save the day. I am just trying to figure out if attending events is equitable to introducing and passing legislation. We need to realize that supporting folks simply because of stomp speeches, nice clothing, smiles and small talk is detrimental to our success as a community. Please join me in really looking at the records here and determing the best person for the job. I would liken it to being the hiring committee for possibly the most sought after job in the state.

Look out for me and I look out for you neighbor-let us all clear our minds of all the elite voter hogwash, look at past voting records, listen out for rhetoric and firmly repeat your questions if you don’t get a straignt answer.

April Malone

June 18th, 2009
11:45 am

HK – Kasim Reed Lawyer for the Rich and Racist
In 1 on January 3, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Atlanta corporate attorney and Democratic Georgia state senator Kasim Reed was deeply distressed at our March 13 BC cover story “Blacks and Browns: The Need to Make Common Cause.” We know because he told us so. BC spelled out the tale of Reed’s shameful attempt to ape the demagogic meanness of Republicans on the immigration issue. In a bill that had no chance of passage, Reed proposed, among other things, to lock up anyone who applied for a job in Georgia with a fake ID for five years. With no detectable irony in his voice, Reed assured BC in a phone conversation that he was acting to “protect the jobs and living standards” of black families in Georgia.

Let’s be clear. Kasim Reed is no champion of working people in Georgia or anyplace else. Senator Reed is a corporate attorney, a partner in the transnational firm of Holland & Knight with offices in Palm Beach, Tel Aviv, metro DC, Atlanta, Beijing, and elsewhere. Holland & Knight is heavily involved in union busting, or as legal firms prefer to call it, “union avoidance” – advising employers how best to intimidate, coerce and selectively fire employees, how to bend, skirt and occasionally break the law to prevent formation of labor unions and break existing ones. The firm is a major anti-environmental player on the national stage, representing the chemical industry on Capitol Hill. It maintains deep connections with the Republican party, and its partners advise Republican state legislators on how best to disenfranchise black voters via the redistricting process in Georgia and other states.

We asked Reed about the incongruity between posing as an advocate of the rights of working families and the union busting practices of his law firm. Amazingly, the man told us that he couldn’t be responsible for what all 13,000 lawyers at the firm actually did, and that he should be judged on his own record. Supposing for the moment that this is an acceptable answer, his bio page on the company web site tells us all we need to know about that record.

“M. Kasim Reed represents employers in employment law matters, including sex, age and disability discrimination, civil rights litigation, and contract-related disputes… He has extensive experience representing employers before various state and federal courts, as well as before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other federal and state administrative agencies.”

There it is. The black state senator who rails against brown immigrants for “taking black jobs” practices employment discrimination law – for employers – and civil rights law for the corporate violators of civil rights. With that bit of context firmly established, we here reprint Reed’s email to us:

To the Publishers:

The BC article was factually incorrect on several counts and failed to properly discuss my position on illegal immigration in Georgia. I am an unabashed supporter of legal immigration and legal immigrants in our country. After all, our country is a nation of immigrants. Our state benefits greatly from the contributions of immigrants in every way possible. I have never, and will never, oppose the right of someone who seeks to enter our county under the laws established by our citizens.

After studying this issue in the legislature, we concluded that we could not simply do nothing about the illegal immigration problem in Georgia because it hurts working people and the federal government has failed to act. The bill I authored punishes individuals who present fraudulent documents to employers by making this offense a misdemeanor for the first offense and a felony on the second offense. This was not properly explained by Mr. Dixon.

Mr. Dixon fails to mention that the legislation seeks to establish fines in the amount of $12,800 per employee against employers who violate the statute. The Pew Hispanic Center recently released a study showing that you can not address the problem of illegal immigration without addressing the employer side of the issue. My bill did that.

Dixon also asserted that I was a member of the Democratic Leadership Council. While I respect that organization and the work it does on a variety of issues, I am not a member. A simple fact check or telephone call to me would have revealed that. Further, the “current Republican leader for the Georgia State Senate” is not a “former Democrat.”

Unfortunately Black Commentator has produced a very poor and unprofessional piece of journalism without the normal fact checking that most credible journalistic organizations engage in.

Mr. Dixon completely ignores Republican measures on the immigration issue which Democrats worked vigorously to defeat. I also notice a consistent pattern in his writing of denigrating Democrats, while ignoring Republican’s role in leading on issues which are damaging to our community. Increasingly, the privilege of public service is tarnished by people like Mr. Dixon who too often ignore basic facts, misconstrue motives and take ill informed cheap shots at those who are working to find solutions to complex problems which impact each of us. Nonetheless, I am going to do my job on the front lines of the struggle in the Georgia State Senate where this effort continues every day.


M. Kasim Reed
The only factual error in our BC cover story was that the Republican leader of the Georgia senate in 2002 wasn’t a former Democrat. We never said Reed was a DLC member. We did call him a “DLC Democrat” because the DLC claimed him as “New Democrat of the Week” on their website. That’s good enough. As for BC ignoring the damage Republicans do, we slammed Reed precisely for following the Republican lead on criminalizing immigration. And we didn’t bore our readers with the employer sanctions aspect of Reed’s bill because they are empty threats. Employer sanctions have been on the books since the 1980s. BC wasn’t the only publication not to take Reed’s bill any more seriously than he did.

“…Reed had no hope of passing his bill,” noted Atlanta’s Creative Loafing newspaper. “… the plan was for it to be rejected by the GOP so Democrats wouldn’t look soft on illegal immigration in the fall elections.”

In the real world, proposals to criminalize immigration or to lock up folks who apply for a job with a false ID are demagogic. Nobody is going to round up, imprison and deport millions of people back to their countries of origin. They may propose it to provoke divisions and get votes, but it’s just not going to happen.

The antics of senator Reed aside, immigration is an issue African Americans need to understand and to take seriously. The presence of millions of undocumented immigrants with no right to demand fair treatment gives the kind of greedy and/or racist employers whom Kasim Reed represents a choice. They can hire African Americans who are the most likely of all workers to join unions and stand up for themselves. Or they can hire the undocumented who dare not speak up for fear of jail or deportation. Needless to say, this is a bad bargain for immigrants and a worse one for African Americans.

For black America, the immigration issue is all about labor market competition. So-called legal “guest worker” programs solve the labor market problem in favor of employers, by allowing an employer to directly “pull the trigger” and initiate deportation proceedings against immigrant workers who step out of line. Thus “guest worker” programs preserve the two-tier labor market that employers dearly love. Solving the labor market problem in favor of black America would require a level playing field where discrimination of all kinds is outlawed and everyone has the right to organize and join unions, to bargain collectively and to strike. Everybody.

Back in BC’s August 22, 2002, issue we printed a passage from black South Carolina Representative Jim Clyburn in which he told how, back in the early 1970s, as an aide to his state’s governor, he ran across an economic development memo that was certainly not meant for his eyes:

“The memorandum had been written by an economic development consultant and listed counties to be avoided when recruiting industry to the state. These counties were all rural and all predominantly black. The theory was that South Carolina, a right to work state, could see the proliferation of labor unions if industries located in these counties because African Americans were deemed to be ‘joiners.’ At the time I didn’t understand the significance of what I had seen. Today I do.”

We do too. Studies indicate that African American women are the most likely to organize and join unions, followed by African American men. Next most likely are Latino women, followed by Latino men, and finally white women followed by the least likely “joiners” of all – white men. Kasim Reed and his clients know this very well. One of the chief objectives of America’s political class then, is to sow every possible obstacle in the path of these groups of likely joiners, blacks and browns, working together. For corporate America, nobody could make a better spearchucker against the “brown menace” than a black politician. Kasim Reed is just doing his job for his clients.

Finally, in his letter, Reed claims that he took up the immigration issue because the federal government “failed to act.” Leaving aside the principle that he failed to learn at Howard University Law School – that a state can no more have its own immigration policy than print its own currency or float its own navy – there are lots of other issues the federal government has failed to act on where states could conceivably take the progressive lead.

BC asked a local pastor, Rev. Timothy McDonald of Atlanta’s First Iconium Baptist Church, what issues he would suggest Reed tackle, if it was about acting where the federal government failed:

“Mandatory sentencing – Georgia’s two strikes laws. We could show the nation something there. We could reduce the number of our children, our nieces and nephews, our brothers and our sisters behind those walls. That would be progressive. That would be something. That would be leadership.”

We are afraid that if the thin-skinned senator and corporate attorney from Atlanta found BC’s first mention of him displeasing, he won’t like this issue any better. BC is not Black Enterprise, or Ebony magazine, or BET’s “How I’m Livin’.” Unlike these kinds of “black oriented media” the purpose of real journalism is not to market lifestyles and products. It’s not to showcase the homes, careers and possessions of African Americans who have “made it.” The press is the only profession with its own constitutional amendment so that it can fearlessly speak truth to power. The next time Kasim Reed wants some favorable press he should call up BET. Maybe they’ll feature his place on the next “How I’m Livin’.”

BC Editor Bruce Dixon can be reached

April Malone

June 18th, 2009
12:02 pm

HK – Kasim Reed Lawyer for the Rich and Racist
In 1 on January 3, 2009 at 1:18 pm