The state Democratic party is about to jump into the Atlanta mayor’s race in an attempt to block front-runner Mary Norwood, whom party chairman Jane Kidd said this evening is a “duplicitous” Republican.
A mailer is set to hit Atlanta voters “sooner rather than later,” Kidd confirmed – most probably on Thursday.
The Democratic party is making no endorsement in what is supposed to be a non-partisan contest, but the flyer will include the photos of both state senator Kasim Reed and City Council President Lisa Borders – Norwood’s closest rivals. Each is identified as an authentic Democrat.
Kidd wouldn’t say how much money Democrats were putting into the effort.
“As far as we’re concerned, Mary Norwood’s a Republican. She’s been trying to dodge the issue of her partisan allegiance,” Kidd said. “We’re concerned that she’s not being truthful about her party affiliation. We think that she should be called out on that.”
The move prompted an angry defense from Norwood’s campaign manager, Roman Levit, a veteran Democrat organizer and former staffer for the state party.
“Mary Norwood is a progressive candidate who votes almost exclusively Democratic. She supported Barack Obama, John Kerry, Al Gore, Bill Clinton,” Levit said. “There was H. Ross Perot.”
But 23 percent of the country voted for the independent candidate, he noted.
On Sunday, after a debate, the city councilwoman was asked whether she had voted for President George W. Bush. She said she couldn’t remember. The next day, an aide said she had not voted for a Republican in the last five presidential elections.
Norwood has conceded that she was a delegate to the 1999 state GOP convention, but said the experience turned her away from party politics.
“In the 2000s, the only republican primaries she voted in were ones where Democrats were unopposed,” Levit said. “She wanted to make sure some crazy person was not elected out of the Republican primary.”
Levit pointed to his own Democratic credentials. He has directed campaigns for U.S. Rep. John Barrow. Norwood’s media strategist, Jim Duffy, is a respected Democrat – as are Norwood’s other professional advisors.
“That doesn’t really matter,” said Kidd. “We’re talking about the candidate. The person that’s going to be mayor of Atlanta should reflect the Democratic nature of Atlanta. She’s not saying what she is. She’s being duplicitous. She can’t have it both ways.”
Levit warned that the move could hurt the Democratic party.
“Presidents Clinton and Obama have busted their you-know-whats to expand this party, bring in progressive-minded independents. What they’re doing is they’re trying to drive out independents,” Levit said. “Some of these attacks are all about exclusiveness.
“Why does Jane Kidd want to drive away a person who supports marriage equality, a person who is pro-choice, who supports health care reform, who is a progressive on the issues that matter to Democrats? Why is she trying to drive her away instead of embracing her?” Levit asked.
Voices for the Reed and Border campaigns said they had been informed of the mailing, but said they did not instigate party participation.
However, both campaigns this week have introduced ads touting their Democratic credentials.
The Reed campaign on Thursday will launch a radio ad featuring Atlanta’s first black mayor and his daughter Brook Jackson-Edmond. “Wake up, Democrats!” Jackson says in a recording from his address to the 1992 Democratic National Convention. Jackson’s daughter calls Reed “the only true Democrat in this race.”
On Tuesday, the Borders campaign launched a TV ad featuring five women around a kitchen counter, discussing the issue of crime.
Here’s the portion of the script that takes a large swipe at Norwood:
First woman: I’ve been in Atlanta a long time. And it’s time for these things to change.
Second woman: We need new leadership.
First woman: What we need is a Democrat.
Third woman: We need Lisa Borders.
See the ad here:
Watch this development closely. The unions have yet to weigh in, so expect the fight over party to get much louder. And remember that the outcome could have a great deal of bearing on next year’s 2010 race for governor.
Editor’s note: Given the impending Atlanta mayoral election, instant commenting has been closed on the Political Insider blog. Readers are invited to submit comments on all posts, which will be published as soon as possible after review.
For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.