Stepping back from the divide in the Atlanta race for mayor

No buckle-shoed Pilgrims were in sight, and to ask Native Americans to raise their hands would have been rude, but a small group of candidates and voters gathered this week for a Thanksgiving-style session on racial tensions bubbling up in Atlanta’s contest for mayor.

The verdict: We’re better than that, but let’s not examine ourselves too closely.

The topic of race has hung in the background since simple math and the city’s changing demographics both made it clear that, on Tuesday, Councilwoman Mary Norwood stands an even chance of becoming the first white mayor of Atlanta since “The Partridge Family” and bell-bottom jeans.

Even the candidates have been on edge. In a pair of televised debates over the weekend, Norwood and Kasim Reed, the former state senator, tiptoed to the edge of the abyss, peered over — then stepped back.

On Saturday, Norwood said her black supporters had been harassed and threatened. The next day, she said the election wouldn’t turn on such things. Reed, who is African-American, said his white supporters had run a gauntlet as well — yet attributed any excesses to the adrenalin of the campaign.

But again, there’s some nervousness. And so a couple dozen people gathered on Monday to discuss politics and race at an exotic, only-in-Atlanta locale: the Self Discovery Center on South Ponce de Leon Avenue, a house festooned with Krishna-oriented paintings.

Thanksgiving fare included cookies and peppermint tea. A large portrait of a wizened old man armed with a necklace of flowers and a staff looked down upon the runoff candidates for president of the Atlanta City Council and the District 6 council race. Other surrogates were there as well.

Neither Norwood nor Reed were present. They were busy marking the three-year anniversary of an elderly woman gunned down by police.

The moderator for the racial discussion was Al Bartell, an African-American and 2002 Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. He blamed the tone of the mayoral contest on “political marketing stakeholders.”

But midway through the session, 57-year-old Maceo Williams, clad in his blue Norwood T-shirt, stood up to give his angry testimony. “Up until today, I was doing outreach for Jesse Jackson. But because of my involvement in the Mary Norwood campaign, I’m no longer [with Operation] Rainbow/PUSH,” he said.

”I’ve been staunch, pro-black for quite a long time,” he told the group. That hardly matters now. “I get the iceberg treatment.”

(Janice Mathis, vice president for Rainbow/PUSH Atlanta, concedes that she and Williams had an argument over his work for Norwood. “I did caution him that Rainbow/PUSH does not take a position in political campaigns,” Mathis said, acknowledging that phone calls from “local campaigns” prompted the discussion. But Mathis said Williams’ name will remain on the group’s Web site.)

If Williams expected outraged sympathy at this encounter session, he didn’t get it.

The candidates and their representatives called the long-time activist a fine and worthy fellow, then moved on to blandly endorse a society that sees no difference between black or white, gay or straight, male or female. Williams doffed his leather touring cap and shook his head.

He needn’t have been discouraged. Their non-reaction was a good thing.

We often point to that first Thanksgiving feast as a symbol of reconciliation and brotherhood, conveniently forgetting that the massacres came after the pumpkin pie. Not before.

If you want to say grace over something today, give thanks that political Atlanta is grounded in reality. And more than a little hypocrisy. But mostly reality.

The reality is that overt appeals to race have become the surest path to defeat for citywide office, whether the candidate is white or black. Victory is found in the margins on the other side.

If Norwood can hang on to the level of black support she showed Nov. 3, if enough Maceo Williamses stick with her, she wins. If Reed has built an adequate network of votes in Midtown and Buckhead, the day is his.

The hypocrisy is that elections are about getting your most fervent supporters to the polls. In the South, that means appeals to racial identity are nearly inescapable.

But the overtures, by necessity, are becoming more and more subtle. And dicey, too.

One notch below the runoff for mayor, the two candidates for council president, Clair Muller and Ceasar Mitchell, present the match of race and gender — but none of the racial tension.

It has been a friendly and collegial contest. On Monday, both candidates declined to throw themselves into wake of the Norwood-Reed conflict. Again, this is a good thing.

Both are council veterans. They know each other too well, Muller said. “Clair’s a good person, and I’m a good person,” Mitchell said. “We both can go deep into policy, so we don’t need to go into personalities.”

And that’s something else to be thankful for.

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95 comments Add your comment


November 25th, 2009
3:12 pm

“If Norwood can hang on to the level of black support she showed Nov. 3, if enough Maceo Williamses stick with her, she wins. If Reed has built an adequate network of votes in Midtown and Buckhead, the day is his…” If your analysis proves true (and we will see), Norwood will win. Her base of African American voters is energized to say the least. People who think Rep. Long is alone in his support of Norwood are grossly mistaken. Reed’s base of votes in Midtown and Buckhead remains too small to measure. His campaign has conducted little or no outreach in the northern corridors of the city and when they did, they found the welcome mat rolled up. He does markedly better in Midtown. The post-Turkey Day vote will turn squarely on turn-out– not yardsigns, not endorsements, not web videos. Turn-out. Period. It’s a run-off, after all, and voting will be somewhere around 10-12%. Every bit of focus from both camps ought to be on delivering their voters to the polls. The one who does a better job of that will win. End of story.


November 25th, 2009
3:16 pm

I’m glad that we are rising above this racial crap. Atlanta has always been known for taking racial discussions into civil arenas and using our intellectual prowess to find resolve.

Both campaigns are on edge, but they’d do themselves well to cool their jets a little. I’m also here that Rep. Margaret Kaiser has endorsed Mary Norwood. Though the Net gains of such an endorsement won’t do much at this point, beause she is not well-known outside her districe. I’m glad she finally came around to support someone, sitting out a mayoral election in a district in the heart of the city seemed a little cowardly.

State Rep. Joe Wilkinson, a Republican from Sandy Springs also endorsed Kasim in a newly released video. A great showing of bi-partisanship.

Kasin Reed for Mayor

Really now

November 25th, 2009
3:23 pm

And I guess the physical intimidation of Norwood supporters by Reed staffers is another shining example of using intellectual prowess to find resolve?

Really now

November 25th, 2009
3:26 pm

Funny how not a single supporter of Kasim Reed has come out and reported an incident of physical intimidation by a Norwood staffer.


November 25th, 2009
3:33 pm

@PolitcOracle Nice to have, but doubtful that Kaiser or Wilkinson will make any difference in the race. And as you can see on previous message streams, we’re not above any of this. I’ve read with disdain some of the most distasteful, vitriolic language in recent days. There is certainly nothing civil about this race and I think we can place the blame squarely on the candidates for engaging such low-minding people to blog for them. As an aside, even with his record in the statehouse, after those state democratic mailers and his attack of Mary’s voting record in the debates, I’m not sure I trust Reed’s promise of bi-partisanship. He cannot have it both ways. It smells of polical expediency– something he is known for. Norwood also cannot have it both ways. Being independent is fine and I think her record shows that. It’s the wavering back and forth that hurt her.


November 25th, 2009
3:37 pm

that’s because they are mature, brush it off, and keep it moving.

If you have other things to talk about (such as a record) you don’t waste time going negative.

Really now

November 25th, 2009
3:49 pm

Claire Muller, Ceasar Mitchell, Mary Norwood, and Kasim Reed. Who is the only candidate to have had credible allegations of physical intimidation of opponent’s supporters made against them?

If this is a sign of their personal ethics, can we afford to take the chance of giving this person even more power in Atlanta?


November 25th, 2009
3:57 pm

@Really Now… A clear indication of one’s character is who they choose to surround themselves with. A leader should and must be judged by his/ her team. Allowing that kind of environment to fester, if true, is tantamount to incompetence or at the very least a wreckless disregard for the integrity of the process. If I cannot trust you to manage the footsoldiers of your campaign, I certainly cannot trust you to manage the various department heads and over 7,000 city employees.


November 25th, 2009
4:19 pm

Someone (Really now?) post a link to information about these “credible” allegations of intimidation. I haven’t been able to find any evidence of it. Norwood on the other hand is employing downright lies about her record, Reed’s “fake” tax problem, and the city of Atlanta’s issues. I’ve never been a fan of her, but she isn’t doing anything to change my mind.

Really now

November 25th, 2009
4:22 pm

Thank you JW, for falling right into the trap. I’ll let some of the more politically savvy posters explain it to you.

The Machine

November 25th, 2009
4:30 pm

This race is over, Kasim Reed is the winner in a landslide. As Maynord Jackson says ” Vote Reed early & often”

It's an interesting question

November 25th, 2009
4:35 pm

Norwood, Reed, Mitchell, Muller. I haven’t heard anything about physical intimidation. Which candidate is doing that?

Who's lying PoliticOracle, Long or Bickers?

November 25th, 2009
4:44 pm

PoliticOracle I know you are a Reed supporter, but do you have the integrity to come on here and say what your gut feeling is on who’s lying?

Remember before you answer, that you are the one who came on here and told us about Erica Long’s donation to the Reed campaign. So if the Long family is playing both ends against the middle what is the most logical explanation.

Long concocted this elaborate scheme to discredit Reed and is lying about the whole thing, or Long was genuinely pi$$ed off about the signs being stolen, caught Reed in the act, and now Bickers is lying to cover it up?

They can’t both be telling the truth, so given the evidence, including the evidence you presented about the Longs on both sides of the fence, who is the most logical person to be lying?

What you don't read, tells as much as what you do read.

November 25th, 2009
4:51 pm

Three statements you have not, and most likely will not read.

As a Muller spokesperson, we deny any reports that we have physically intimidated our opponent’s supporters.

As a Mitchell spokesperson, we deny any reports that we have physically intimidated our opponent’s supporters.

As a Norwood spokesperson, we deny any reports that we have physically intimidated our opponent’s supporters.

Looks like what you don’t read tells you as much about this election as what you do read.


November 25th, 2009
5:59 pm

@Who’s lying PoliticOracle, Long or Bickers?

Why would you include me in the questions to Long and Bickers? I’m not an operative for either candidate. Secondly, this story is so stupid I’m not sure who to believe. It is very interesting that Ralph Long would stake out and then “conveniently” catch someone on video, but the video provides no proof of any payment being made or the culprit identifying himself as a Reed worker. Now, Mitzi Bickers does seem a bit flustered when the media questioned her, but so does Reed and sense neither of them called the police the whole thing seems like a mindless waste of time. Ralph Long needs to get a life and apparently a job and Mitzi Bickers needs to be better prepared for media appearances.

I say again, I don’t think either of the candidates is condoning or promoting this kind of behavior but I know both sides take signs. It’s not illegal to do so and it happens quite frequently in races on all level.

Kasim Reed is going to beat Mary Norwood like Mike Tyson’s training bag and it will be due to her thin record and the amatuer night campaign team she put together.


November 25th, 2009
6:17 pm

The most encouraging thing I’ve seen lately is several yards with campaign signs for both Kasim Reed and Clair Muller. Apparently some voters are looking beyond race and gender and choosing the best individuals for mayor and council president, respectively.


November 25th, 2009
6:22 pm

@BPJ Now that is encouraging.


November 25th, 2009
6:29 pm

@BPJ, you’re a paid staffer, I have yet to see anything like that. @Galloway, you may as well endorse the candidate opposite Norwood already.


November 25th, 2009
6:39 pm

@Bs Sorry dude, I don’t do endorsements. They are utterly meaningless in this race. I have no affinity for either camp. But there are five voters in my house and we’re still deciding. I call them like I see them. Neither has been very impressive so far, so we’ll see what Tuesday brings, eh?

As for BPJ’s sighting, he’s right. My neighbor on the right has both Reed and Muller signs. The one one the left has a Norwood sign. We don’t have a sign in our yard and no one has called and offered to give us one– even though we vote in EVERY election and our phone number is listed.


November 25th, 2009
7:03 pm

So that’s the latest Reed strategy BPJ; make Reed look kinder and gentler by aligning him with Clair Muller? What’s next BPJ making Reed look like a consensus candidate by saying you saw Reed signs in the same yard you saw Palin 2012 signs? LOL

Hey guess what everybody? I just got back from overseas and I saw Reed signs in China, Japan, South Africa, Germany, and England. And Antarctica!


November 25th, 2009
7:22 pm

Plenty of folks aren’t nearly as worried about Mary’s so called thin record as they are Kasim’s seeming inch think file of machine connections.

As far as Mary’s campaign team, it should thank its lucky stars it’s not performing on amateur night, because it would get booed off the stage in twenty seconds.

For example how did the Norwood camp allow Reed to score points on the missed vote in council without immediately pointing out the OPENLY GAY ANNE FAUVER skipped the PROCEDURAL vote because the results had been decided? In advance! Talk about blowing a golden opportunity to embarrass the Reed camp! It didn’t take an oracle to see that.

You seem to be up on things PoliticOracle; how is it that these people who are PAID to think these things through, aren’t THINKING THESE THINGS THROUGH?


November 25th, 2009
7:24 pm

The point of the yard signs of Reed and Muller appearing together is that there are still people who don’t vote based on race (in other words, Reed/Mitchell or Norwood/Muller exclusively). Some people really have no clue. The rest of us will vote or have voted for Reed.

We aren't that slow disappointed

November 25th, 2009
7:30 pm

The point of the Reed and Muller signs appearing together is that is was a Reed talking point with no confirmed basis in reality.

On the other hand, it has been confirmed that Reed has become a world wide phenomenon with signs sighted in China, Japan, Russia, Germany and England. And Antarctica!

Also why is no one reporting on the Dali Lama’s comments, when he was it Atlanta, and how he found Reed to be so much more spiritual than Mary Norwood, and so much more willing to put his ego aside for the greater good of Atlanta?

And why is no one reporting on the fact the Dali Lama has repeatedly reached out to Kasim Reed for spiritual advice since his return back to Tibet?

Why do you think the Dali Lama has a Reed sign in his front yard in Tibet?

More Reed signs!

November 25th, 2009
7:38 pm

Hey BPJ can you confirm reports that Reed campaign signs have been spotted in Wasilla, Alaska, Oslo, Norway, New Haven Connecticut, and Pretoria, South Africa all in the last 24 hours?

More Reed signs!

November 25th, 2009
7:41 pm

The International Astrological Association has just announced the creation of a 13th sign.


More to follow.


November 25th, 2009
8:12 pm

What on earth are you people talking about? Mary supporters have gone off the deep end…

Brother D

November 25th, 2009
9:21 pm

Reed is a sold-out, win at all costs, power-hungry Tom, who has abandoned his people and now wants them to support him based on race. Little Mary has been working in Atlanta communities, black and white, to make things better for 8 years, while Reed worked for corporate law firms fighting against workers and minorities civil rights. If Reed were to become mayor of Atlanta, it would be a travesty. He should go back to the corporate board-room and be the sold-out negro he is to get to this point.

Don't deny what's happening with Kasim, wow

November 25th, 2009
9:27 pm

Wow stop pretending. You know it’s common knowledge in the Reed camp that the Dali Lama was talking up Kasim big time when he was in Atlanta. You also know that high level Chinese diplomats have hinted if Kasim wins, Kasim could be instrumental in talks between Tibet and China.

Wow admit it, you also know the Reed camp is keeping this under wraps unless it’s absolutely thought necessary to reveal it before the election, because they are trying to manage expectations for the Reed administration now that he’s become an international phenomenon.

Don’t you just love it when insiders like wow come on here and pretend to play dumb?

Trust you gut instinct on Reed

November 25th, 2009
9:35 pm

Haven’t you ever had a gut feeling about someone, you just know something isn’t what it appears to be?

I urge everyone to look at this week’s Creative Loafing, at the StreetTalk column on page 11.

Read what Danny says, because it the single best statement I’ve head yet about Kasim Reed. His quote “I don’t know much about Reed, but there’s something that don’t flow right with him.” says it all. It’s not about the Cracker Barrel, the taxes, the signs, the machine endorsements, the pie in the sky proposals with no real way to pay for him.

It’s about your gut instinct and the intuitive knowledge that there’s something that don’t flow right with Reed.

That says it all.

Gettin' Jiggy wid it

November 25th, 2009
10:59 pm

to the tune of your favorite John Tesh song…

If you want four more years
Of things staying the same
Think of Shirley as W
and Reed’s her McCain

Galloway for Reed

November 25th, 2009
11:44 pm

Enter your comments here

Sir Paul McCartney endorses Kasim Reed

November 25th, 2009
11:50 pm

In yet another celebrity endorsement, Sir Paul McCartney has endorsed Kasim Reed and confirmed long standing rumors that he wrote the hit song Ebony and Ivory about Reed and Muller based on stories from a long time McCartney friend and Atlanta resident BPJ.

In a related story, citizens of Liverpool have reported seeing Kasim Reed signs at Strawberry Field.

More Reed endorsements

November 26th, 2009
1:33 am

On behalf of all the lonely people, Eleanor Rigby has endorsed Kasim Reed.

In related news, the strength of Kasim Reed’s worldwide appeal has been underscored by the sighting of Kasim Reed yard signs on Penny Lane and Abbey Road.

Simon and Garfunkel endorse Reed

November 26th, 2009
2:03 am

The tsunami of celebrity endorsements continues for Kasim Reed, as Simon and Garfunkel have scheduled a Thanksgiving Day press conference to endorse Kasim Reed.

They also plan to reveal, for the first time, their hit The Sounds Of Silence was written after attending a Norwood rally and the song was about the lack of enthusiasm at the event.

When critics raised questions about Paul Simon’s claim that the song was written after a Norwood event, pointing out it was written in 1964, a spokesman for Reed quickly interrupted noting that it was more proof that Norwood has neglected her duties as a council member and has in fact been running for mayor for the past 45 years.

Midtown For Mary Norwood

November 26th, 2009
8:28 am

Still not changed by all of the Reed paid posters here. My vote is going for Mary Norwood!

The Snark

November 26th, 2009
10:01 am

Looks like the mushrooms are finally beginning to take effect …

Jason is lowlife scum

November 26th, 2009
10:18 am

Haha none of Reed’s supporters are here because there at the homeless shelter eating free food provided by hard working tax payers. Mary will win because December 1 is food stamp and welfare payment day. Reed’s supporters will be too busy cashing there government checks to vote. The only blacks who will vote are the rich ones and there all for Norwood. All the whites will vote for Norwood. Who is going to vote for Reed? Only the city employees. While there are a couple hundred thousand of them it is not enough to overcome the Norwood army so why even bother to show up on election and waste your time Reed worshipers. When Norwood becomes mayor she will privatize the government and all the lazys will be out of a job. Y’all can move to Clayton to continue destroying that county while we clean up the mess you made here.

Enjoy your free turkey today because next month the gravy train is going off the track just like those Marta trains you love do.

P.S. Before another person calls me a racist or a member of the klan, I have black friends. I have nothing against blacks. I do have something against the Reed supporting welfare cheats. Get a real job you hip hop worshipping thugs. Reed will lose no matter what and you will soon have to get a job or be removed from the city. If you don’t like it, we can change the homeless shelter downtown back into a jail!


November 26th, 2009
10:49 am

I’m black, and I voted for Mary Norwood in advanced voting this week. There, I said it and stand by it. It’s time for change. When Reed came out with those bookmarks with scripture from the Bible that cafeteria Christians pick and choose this or that scripture to support their bigotry and biases did it for me.


November 26th, 2009
10:53 am

What I previously posted lacks clarity, but I think you get the message.


November 26th, 2009
11:04 am

I’m getting tired of all this negative stuff put out by the norwood camp about Kasim! The African-American community must rise up, go to the polls and elect Kasim!!!! We don’t need some rich white woman telling us what to do!

atlanta resident

November 26th, 2009
11:08 am

I noticed for a long time the rainbow push coalition only pushes for one color of the rainbow.


November 26th, 2009
11:43 am

Norwood will win by 2 or 3 percenage points. If she beats him by 4 or more points it will be considered a land slide.

Sorry Kasim, but there just aren’t enough homless people in Atlanta to bus to the polls.


November 26th, 2009
11:55 am

@atlanta resident… I’m Black but dayum that’s funny!


November 26th, 2009
12:03 pm

Kasim ‘Baby Bill Campbell’ Reed……this is what your get..!!!!!

It's simple really

November 26th, 2009
1:22 pm

Couldn’t you see a used car lot owner easily hiring a Kasim Reed if he were available?

But if you were looking to buy a used car, would you buy one from Kasim Reed?

Word on the street

November 26th, 2009
1:39 pm

That guy on Streettalk probably has the best analysis out there. Like he said, something just don’t flow right with Kasim.

There are some things that no matter how many divisive campaign tactics you come up with, no matter how many endorsements you come up with, you just can’t run away from.

And try as they might, the Reed camp can’t run away from the perception that you just can’t trust Kasim Reed.

Word on the street

November 26th, 2009
1:53 pm

Ceasar Mitchell, Clair Muller, Mary Norwood, Kasim Reed. Why would anybody support the most power hungy, least trustworthy, candidate committed to keeping power concentrated in the hands of cronies?

Karen Callaghan

November 26th, 2009
2:42 pm

GallowaysMom believes Reed’s black supporters are homeless. I see the white Buckhead bigots are out strong today.

@Karen Callaghan

November 26th, 2009
3:12 pm

Karen, as long as we are going to talk about offensive posts, would you care to a talk about Montrell’s post that says we don’t need some rich white woman to tell us what to do?

Raygunius Delmacio

November 26th, 2009
3:38 pm

Atlanta is a BLACK CITY, we need a BLACK MAYOR. Reed may be in the pocket of the Machine but he is one of us.