A contentious exchange on race relations marked the beginning of Saturday evening’s debate between Atlanta mayoral candidates Kasim Reed and Mary Norwood on WAGA-TV.
Fox 5’s Diedra Dukes opened up the topic by asking Reed whether the mayoral campaign had divided the city by black and white.
Reed responded optimistically:
“I think that the city has made outstanding progress. I think that we both received support both from white citizens and from black citizens. My support in the white community has actually been growing significantly.
“Elections are tough. But I think now that the campaign is down to two individuals, you will see more support that is cross-racial. And I think that is important. Both Ms. Norwood and myself are working toward the best Atlanta – the Atlanta that Dr. [Martin Luther] King talked about.
“I think that we have both conducted ourselves in a way that makes the citizens of Atlanta proud. And as long as we don’t get bogged down in trying to win an election based upon dividing the city, I think that Atlanta will come out just fine.”
But Norwood, a member of the City Council, contradicted the former state senator in this follow-up exchange with Morse Diggs:
Diggs: Some of your black supporters say that they have been harassed and intimidated because they are supporting a white candidate. There’s still an edge out there. What does that say about the level of race relations where we’re at right now? Are we still a divided city?
Norwood: Morse, I have been very saddened, that the people that have been supporting me, who are so courageous, have been threatened. The people who have gone up to their doors, and knocked on their doors, and have said, “What are you doing supporting this woman?”
And it is coming from other camps. It has been going on for a while. We have had our yard signs – just every day – taken away. So we have seen evidence of just not great, not appropriate behavior.
I think the citizens of the mayors of Atlanta deserve to have the mayor they want, whoever that mayor is. And so I’m very hopeful that the harassment will cease.
Diggs: What are you telling those supporters who have been harassed?
Norwood: That I will do everything in my power to protect them. That I have alerted the police department, just to make sure that they are riding through neighborhoods where Mary Norwood signs are, because there are people who have been very concerned.
Reed was given an opportunity to respond:
“If she’s talking about old campaigns, prior to the two of us, then I don’t have a problem with her comment. But if she’s talking about ‘other camps’ now, the only camp is me, and I wholeheartedly reject it. If Ms. Norwood wants to make an accusation, she should stop [indistinct]. Make the accusation.
“My campaign has 6,000 addresses with yard signs in them. Yard signs for Kasim Reed have been removed citywide as well. So we can get into this game. Both of us have supporters who have been who are supporting us very aggressively and robustly.
“But the notion that my campaign is engaged in intimidation is something that I reject. And it’s time for us to put up, or let’s stop slinging mud.”
The back-and-forth on the topic ended there.
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